(Bloomberg) --

Egypt — one of the world’s top wheat importers — is in talks to buy 1 million tons from Serbia, showing how its push to expand suppliers is turning even to minor global shippers. 

The move aims to “diversify sources of wheat imports,” Supply Minister Aly El-Moselhy said in a statement Wednesday, following a Serbian official visit to Egypt. The country will also supply Egypt with corn for poultry feed, he said. 

Egypt was hard hit by a surge in wheat prices in the immediate wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sparking a push to pursue new origins. It often buys 11 million tons or more per season and currently has strategic reserves covering 4.5 months of consumption. 

However, global grain markets have eased from their 2022 peaks and its unclear how far Serbia itself can go to fill any shortfalls. Serbia typically exports about 1 million tons of wheat or less in a given season, with the US Department of Agriculture projecting this year’s sales at 600,000 tons. The statement didn’t give a time-line for the arrival of wheat in Egypt. 

Serbia will also supply wheat and corn from Romania and Bulgaria via the Romanian port of Constanta, said Shrief Bassily, chairman of the Egyptian Holding Company for Silos and Storage, without giving further details. Romania is already a significant wheat supplier to Egypt’s state-run buyer, ranking as the top origin in the 2021-22 year.

Egypt’s currency is trading near a record low, adding to import challenges as the government provides heavily subsidized bread to more than 70 million of its over 100 million citizens. So far this season, it has maintained its historical reliance on Black Sea wheat. 

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