CAIRO, EGYPT — Egypt, the world’s largest wheat buyer, said on March 6 it plans to harvest 3.6 million tonnes of its own wheat in the coming season that starts in April, according to a Reuters report.

The state will pay farmers between 655-685 Egyptian pounds ($38-$39) per ardeb (150 kilograms) of wheat depending on quality, Egypt’s supply minister Ali Moselhy said.

“This is a fair and special price ... We are targeting (a harvest of) 3.6 million tonnes and the funds from the finance ministry have been secured,” Moselhy said, in footage broadcast by state TV.

The head of the farmers’ union, however, told Reuters that farmers had requested the government pay 800 Egyptian pounds per ardeb and that the current price would drive farmers away from growing wheat.

“I expect the crop to fall this year due to the spread of yellow rust and climate change, which will increase the losses incurred by farmers,” Hussein Abu Saddam told Reuters.

Egypt procured 3.15 million tonnes of wheat during the harvest season last year, one of its lowest tallies in years.

Traders said at the time that some of the local crop was bought by private mills, which offered higher prices than the government, as global prices rose above the government’s price during harvest time.

In February, the government of Egypt reached agreement to acquire 400,000 tonnes of milling wheat from three companies: Bunge SA, Amropa AG and Archer Daniels Midland Co. The wheat is valued at $122 million, according to a Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA said the wheat is expected to originate from the Black Sea region and will be shipped in April/May. It will be Egypt’s first wheat purchase of 2019.

“This latest round of international procurement of wheat will help ease shortages of wheat flour in the country,” the USDA said. “The GOE will distribute the wheat to local milling companies and bakeries enrolled under the GOE subsidized wheat program.”