Egypt announces immediate cigarette price hikes

Egypt’s leading cigarette maker, the Eastern Tobacco Company, said it has raised prices by 10-15 percent starting Thursday, only days after the country launched the first phase of its new national health insurance system, which will be covered through the new hike.

In televised statements Wednesday, company chairman Mohamed Haroun said that 50 percent of the new price increase will be directed into the health insurance system, with the remaining 50 percent coming from taxes.

According to Haroun, the company’s cheapest Cleopatra brand, which has long dominated the market, will be sold at EGP17 instead of EGPT15.5, with the lower quality brand sold at EGP16 instead of EGP14.5 — the cheapest in Egypt.

It remains unclear whether the new increase will also apply to cigarettes produced by foreign-owned companies such as BAT-Egypt and Philip Morris International, which of both use Eastern Company factories to manufacture locally-sold products.

Eastern Company supplies about 70 percent of Egypt’s cigarette market, which Haroun put at about 83 billion cigarettes a year.

In recent years, Egyptian smokers have been faced with multiple price hikes due a drop in imports of tobacco — among other imported goods after a foreign currency shortage since 2011 — as well as new taxation.