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By John Helmer in Moscow

The Russian Grain Union has accused the Egyptian government of a legal manoeuvre with an arriving wheat shipment, in order to force a cut in Russian export prices.

Alexander Korbut, vice-president of the producers’ union, told Fairplay a 52,000-tonne shipment of medium-quality wheat has been arrested at the Red Sea port of Safaga, on the warrant of the Egyptian Prosecutor-General. A vessel arriving with a second shipment has been prevented from discharging its cargo at Safaga until samples are checked.

The Egyptian claim is that the Russian grain contains impurities and is unfit for human consumption; officials at the Egyptian Embassy in Moscow were unavailable to substantiate the details.

Korbut said there had been a similar episode in 2006. Sources differ over whether the contamination discovered then had occurred after delivery and warehousing in Egypt, or in Russia before shipment.

Russia delivers more than 3 million tonnes of grain to Egypt annually, and is the largest of Egypt’s import sources for grain. The Russians charge that an Egyptian importer sought the cargo arrest to improve its bargaining position for new contracts.

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