The Bureaucrat Behind Egypt’s Wheat Buyer

This glowing appraisal of Nomani Nasr Nomani, the vice chairman of Egypt’s state wheat buyer (General Authority for Supply and Commodities), sheds some light into how a fairly opaque organisation works.

Mr Nomani is described as “arguably the most powerful figure on the global wheat market; he is also the man who ensured Egypt’s revolution for freedom didn’t turn into “a revolution of hunger”, in the Reuters report.  

As the world’s biggest net importer of wheat, the decisions he makes are enough to change prices on global wheat futures markets.

A Cairo-based trader who has worked with Mr Nomani for more than a decade gives him a glowing report:

“He knows what he’s doing and I would say that the work done by GASC so far has been impressive. They know when to enter the market and they give themselves a lot of flexibility”

But this story, though touching briefly on Egypt’s multi-billion dollar food subsidy expenditure, fails to elaborate on the institution’s short-comings and Mr Nomani’s repeated empty promises.

The organisation, in fact, epitomises exactly the type of bureaucracy that Egypt must eradicate.  

Mr Nomani’s office, for instance, is almost as big as an Olympic-sized swimming pool, dwarfing most of the other offices in the building where lower-ranking colleagues sit sardined against one another.

The man must also be accountable to the decision making of the organisation, which has exacerbated rather than helped Egypt’s food crisis.

There is a stubborn insistence on sticking to the status quo by importing too much and not investing enough in domestic food production. 

Mr Nomani is described as “well-suited to navigate difficult waters, with his inside knowledge of GASC accumulated since he joined in 1979 as the head of a research unit.”

He will need this “unflappable” quality to steer Egypt through tough times as the country fights to meet domestic demand.

Lower harvests in some of Egypt’s biggest markets including Russia and Ukraine have given way to higher prices, making it more expensive for Egypt’s indebted government to buy much needed wheat. 


  • Posted October 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    The size of the organization is inherited from the Nasser regime. Bear in mind the GASC is like the CB not their call to change policy but implement it with little drawbacks if possible. I believe the reuters piece was well balanced. When you say Egypt needs to change policy you should understand this is a decision probably taken by Qandil or even Morsi; Nomani doesnt make such policy changing decisions.

  • Posted October 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your comment Karim. If it is true that Egypt’s decisions are made only by the prime minister and the president, this not only steers blame and accountability away from any of the important institutions under the government that now appear like puppets, but it also reflects a bigger problem – that autocratic, top-down policies persist. That’s not going to work in a new Egypt – we hope. I think the Reuters piece missed the point, and though a nice profile of Nomani, it did not touch on his important challenges ahead.

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