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By John Helmer in Moscow

A news agency report from Cairo yesterday, claiming the Egyptian health authorities have quarantined a new Russian grain shipment in port, has been disputed by the Russian inspection agency, and by grain shippers in Moscow, who are not sure whether the action signals a resumption of last year’s weevil wars for market share in Egypt’s lucrative wheat market.

Alexei Alexeyenko of Rosselkhoznadzor, the inspectorate responsible for clearing grain cargoes before they are shipped across the Black Sea, told Fairplay: “When I learnt the news yesterday, I called the [Russian] trade mission in Egypt. They said they don’t know of such an incident. The Quarantine Plant Protection Service of Egypt has not heard of the situation either. That is indicative, because it is the Service that has the responsibility to check the grain for pests. In fact, while we haven’t received an official notification yet, we have nothing but the news report.” He charged that the news release may be “yet another provocative move revealing unfair competition by foreign suppliers.”

Alexander Korbut of the Russian Grain Union, representing shippers and traders, told Fairplay: “If there hasn’t been an official notification, then it is the news sources who are in charge. The Russian and the Egyptian sides may be discussing the situation. It can be our fault, it can be theirs. Unfair competition could be taking place, also.”

Russian trade sources say that the US and France have yet to sign grain supply contracts with Egypt, and may be using the threat of infestation to recover market share from the Russian volumes already contracted for delivery.

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