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cairo-wheat CAIRO: Top wheat importer Egypt has bought 2.6 million tonnes of local wheat so far in the 2011/2012 season, up from 2.2 million tonnes at the same time last year, and may be able to reduce its purchases from abroad, its main grain buyer said on Monday.

Nomani Nomani, vice chairman of the General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC), said the 2.6 million tonnes figure had been reached by June 3.

Total local supplies by the end of last season were 2.6 million tonnes.

Nomani said Egypt is currently targeting a minimum of 3 million tonnes of local supply this year.

Egypt's harvesting season for wheat begins on April 15 and ends on July 15, he said.

"The supply figures compared to last year signal optimism and this means GASC can reduce this year its imports from abroad if the target is met," Nomani said.

The increase in local supplies was due to the development of new strains and an improved price incentive for farmers, he said. It was achieved despite diesel shortages that have hampered harvesting.

Egypt, the world's largest importer of wheat, said in October it had raised the price it pays local farmers for their wheat to 380 Egyptian pounds ($63.60) per ardeb (140 kg) from 350 pounds during the last season to give them an incentive.

Egypt is forecast to consume 18.9 million tonnes of wheat in 2011/12, up from 17.7 million tonnes the previous year, according to US Department of Agriculture data.

Traders and some government officials said last month fraudsters were being further encouraged by the price premium Egypt paid to its farmers to pass off cheap foreign grain as locally grown to profit at the country's expense.

Copyright Reuters, 2012