Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the army Sunday to increase bread production and distribution to cope with acute shortages that have sparked clashes at bakeries in low-income neighborhoods leaving at least two people dead.
Demand for subsidized bread has grown steadily in Egypt in recent months, fueled by rising commodity prices that have made unsubsidized bread less affordable for the 50 percent of the population that lives below the poverty line. At the same time, the supply has decreased as subsidized bakeries have allegedly sold some of their flour for a profit rather than use it to produce bread.
Presidential spokesman Suleiman Awwad said Mubarak delivered his order to the army Sunday at a meeting of Cabinet ministers he had called to address the growing crisis. The army and the Interior Ministry, which controls the police, own a large number of bakeries that they normally use to feed their own employees.
"Where is the problem?" Awwad quoted Mubarak as asking his ministers. "If it is in production, then it should be increased. If it is in distribution, then new venues should be opened."