Some of Egypt’s major cities have been paralysed by rare protests in response to a cut in bread subsidies.
The country’s ministry of supply reduced the state-sponsored provision of bread of up to 4,000 to 500 loaves per bakery, according to local news reports.
The move is designed to replace an earlier and more controversial proposal to cut the supply from five loaves per person per day to three.
But while the cuts are unlikely to have a dramatic affect on the bread rations of the average citizen, the suggestion struck a nerve among the Egyptian public. In response to the decision, hundreds of Egypt’s poorest citizens filled the streets in the cities of Alexandria and Giza, and the towns of Kafr el-Sheikh and Minya. Roads were blocked and residents surrounded government buildings.
One protest in Alexandria showed people chanting “we want bread” and “everything but a loaf”, according to video footage taken by protesters. The hashtag “supply uprising” trended on Twitter across Egypt on Tuesday.
The protests come as the cost of living for the average Egyptian rises rapidly. Egypt devalued its currency and cut fuel subsidies in November, prompting the value of the Egyptian pound to halve and leading to queues of furious citizens at petrol stations.
The cuts are intended to overhaul Egypt’s moribund economy in order to receive a $12bn loan from the International Monetary Fund.
But bread subsidies are considered as a red line among Egyptians, a staple on the plate of every family, whether rich or poor.