Egyptians protest over new bread subsidies system

CAIRO, Egypt — Dozens of Egyptians protested across the country on Tuesday because they were unable to get their share of subsidized bread, police said.

The protests followed a supply ministry decision to limit the number of subsidized loaves bakeries can sell to people who do not yet have digital cards that are being introduced under a new distribution system, Supply Minister Ali al-Meselhy said.

The new system, which the government launched in 2014, replaces paper documents, and is designed to allow stricter state control and oversight to ensure no subsidized flour is stolen by bakeries.

Protests were reported on Tuesday in the provinces of Alexandria, Kafr el-Sheikh, Minya and Assiut, with a small demonstration also taking place in Cairo, officials said, requesting anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

In Alexandria, angry protesters gathered outside the ministry’s offices.

An Egyptian man shows a paper documents as dozens of Egyptians take part in demonstration in front of a government office in downtown Alexandria on March 7, 2017, against the decision of the supply ministry to limit the distribution of subsidized bread to holders of a new system of digital cards issued by the ministry. (AFP PHOTO / STR)

An Egyptian man shows a paper documents as dozens of Egyptians take part in demonstration in front of a government office in downtown Alexandria on March 7, 2017, against the decision of the supply ministry to limit the distribution of subsidized bread to holders of a new system of digital cards issued by the ministry. (AFP PHOTO / STR)

Meselhy said at a press conference later in the day that the ministry had limited to 500 the number of loaves that could be distributed by each accredited bakery to non-digital card holders.

He said data on people still using paper documents for their subsidized bread will be collected so they can be issued with digital cards within a week.

Until then, the minister promised citizens who did not get bread on Tuesday that the problem would be resolved within 48 hours.

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