CAIRO, EGYPT — Wheat imports are projected to increase slightly in Egypt despite strong local production, according to a Sept. 19 Global Agricultural Information (GAIN) report for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA forecasts Egypt’s wheat production for 2018-19 at 8.45 million tonnes, the same as the previous year, while imports are projected at 12.5 million tonnes, up from 12.3 million tonnes in 2017-18.

Egypt is traditionally the largest importer of wheat, as its per capita consumption of bread products ranks among the highest in the world.

Wheat consumption in 2018-19 is forecast at 20.1 million tonnes by the USDA, up 1.5% from the 2017-18 estimate of 19.8 million tonnes.

The USDA said the uptick is attributed to “a 1.6% increase in food, seed and industrial use (FSI) consumption. The rise in FSI wheat consumption is attributable to population growth of about 2.5%.”

The USDA estimates 2018-19 corn imports at 9.5 million tonnes, up 1% from the previous year.

Rice production is expected to fall significantly in 2018-19 to 2.8 million tonnes, a downward revision from an earlier figure of 3.3 million tonnes due to a decrease in planted area. The USDA projects the planted area for rice dropping to 462,000 hectares from 762,000 the year before.

“Farmers are now shifting to cotton or corn in response to more competitive government procurement prices,” the USDA said.

Consequently, 2018-19 rice imports are expected to be significantly higher at 300,000 tonnes compared to 50,000 tonnes in 2017-18, the USDA said.