CAIRO, EGYPT — Importers in Egypt are struggling to pay for wheat stuck at ports amid a dollar shortage, causing 80% of mills to cease activity completely, Reuters reported.

About 700,000 tonnes of wheat hasn’t been released from customs, leading to the mill shutdowns, according to a Sept. 26 letter from the Federation of Egyptian Industries Chamber of Cereals to the supply minister.

The price of wheat and flour used to make unsubsidized bread has spiked in Egypt due to depleting stocks. Wheat prices rose by around 10% to EGP 9,000 ($458.02) per tonne in the last two weeks, Reuters reported. Flour also rose by 18% to EGP 11,500 ($585.24) per tonne, traders said.

The government “will work on the issue” of declining private sector wheat stocks, Egypt's supply minister told Reuters.

As foreign currency reserves dwindled, authorities introduced rules in March that restricted access to dollars for imports. Wheat and other strategic goods were exempt but traders said wheat import payments have nearly stopped since September and no new contracts have been signed, Reuters said.

Imports of corn, poultry and soybeans also have been affected, traders said.

Since early September, only 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes of wheat got through customs, the Chamber’s letter said. Monthly private sector needs are estimated at around 450,000 tonnes, and, according to the Chamber, mills need the immediate release of around 300,000 tonnes.