A woman buys bread at a bakery in Cairo, January 8, 2015. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
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The successful rollout so far of a new "smart card" system to distribute subsidized bread has been a major achievement for Egypt's government, saving money while earning praise from families who no longer have to wake early to fight for loaves.For generations, Egypt's government has fed the public by distributing subsidized flour to bakeries, which sell bread for as little as 5 piastres a loaf, less than one U.S. cent.The cards have so far been introduced in 17 of Egypt's 29 provinces and consumption in those areas is already down between 15 to 35 percent, Supplies Minister Khaled Hanafi, who has led the reforms, told Reuters.He forecasts that once rolled out nationwide, the reforms will eliminate enough waste to enable Egypt to cut imports by 20 to 30 percent, without depriving needy citizens.While those figures could not be independently confirmed, they seemed to be born out at bakeries using smart cards in four provinces visited by Reuters, where bakers confirmed that they were making less bread due to the reforms.Bread and politics have been a potent mix for decades in Egypt, a nation that now has 90 million people, mostly poor.
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