People queue for subsidised bread at a bakery equipped with a smart card system in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, 170 km (106 miles) northeast of Cairo, February 24, 2014. (REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
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Authorities who hope to avoid protests over subsidized loaves sold for the equivalent of 1 U.S. cent have turned to smart cards to try to manage the corrupt and wasteful bread supply chain that has been untouchable for decades.Egypt, the world's largest importer of wheat, purchases around 10 million tons a year, draining its hard currency reserves to provide the poor with a disc-shaped loaf.One government after another has resisted attacking the problem, fearful that cutting subsidies could be political suicide.Distrustful of state bureaucracy, the Morsi administration relied on mainly Islamist non-governmental organizations to clean up the bread mess. They decided to take a gamble, however, and use government authorities in Port Said. Bakers producing state-subsidized loaves siphon off flour provided by the government and make a killing in the black market.The government's flour is then baked into loaves sold at private bakeries at prices beyond the reach of the poor.
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