cairo -

Egypt may reach 65 to 70 percent self-sufficiency in wheat production this year because of an expected boost in the local harvest, the prime minister said on Saturday.

Egypt usually imports around 10 million tonnes of wheat a year but this year the state says it will buy only around 4 to 5 million tonnes from abroad, hoping to get the rest from local production.

More than two years of political turmoil since a popular uprising ousted President Hosni Mubarak have frightened away tourists and foreign investors, draining the foreign currency reserves used to pay for imports.

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said there were indications this year’s crop could reach 9.5 million tonnes, echoing predictions by other officials.

“We may reach self-sufficiency this year of 65 to 70 percent,” he told reporters in the canal city of Suez.

The government would buy about 4.5 million tonnes locally at a price of 400 Egyptian pounds ($58) per ardeb (150 kg), Kandil added. The country needs about 9 million tonnes a year for its subsidised bread programme, the minister for agriculture said this month.

A bread shortage in 2008 and similar problems in the 1970s caused riots at a time when demonstrations were not as common as they are in post-revolutionary Egypt. ($1=6.9176 Egyptian pounds)