Funding crunch exacerbates Egypt port congestion -grain importer
* Larger number of smaller shipments clogging ports
* Egypt grain demand seen rising 1 million to 1.2 million tonnes a year
CAIRO, July 15 (Reuters) - A funding crunch has triggered smaller shipments of grains, likely to create congestion at Egyptian ports as the Black Sea crop comes in, an executive at one of Egypt's largest grain importers said.
"Private traders are importing smaller amounts more regularly, partly due to financing issues, which is putting more pressure on ports," Salah Tawfik, general manager at Medsofts, told Reuters.
More than two years of turmoil have spooked investors and deterred tourists, hitting two of Egypt's main sources of foreign currency, since an uprising brought down President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
The currency crisis has made it difficult to finance food and fuel imports, causing traders to draw down stocks and purchase on a hand-to-mouth basis.
"The market has changed - importers are shipping 30,000 tonnes instead of 60,000 tonnes and selling on smaller amounts because no one wants to carry the stock," Tawfik said.
Privately owned Medsofts imports around 2 million tonnes of grains, including wheat, corn and soybeans, each year to supply customers such as feed compounders, millers and the soybean crushing industry.
Egypt, the world's largest wheat importer, operates its ports at near full capacity, handling up to around 20 million tonnes of grain and oilseeds a year.
"The line-up in Egypt can be 10 to 20 days from August when the Black Sea harvest is at its peak," Tawfik said, referring to port delays for delivering grain shipments.
"When you have a lack of berths or storage you have a backlog for vessels to discharge."
Russia and Ukraine are two of the largest suppliers of grain to Egypt.
The major ports used for grain shipments are owned by the government, and Tawfik said it was unlikely that the number of berths would expand at Damietta or Alexandria's Dekheila in the next decade.
Medsofts, in partnership with food company Wadi Group, have built a floating berthing terminal in Alexandria to help address the pressure on ports. It has capacity to discharge around 2 million tonnes a year directly from ships into barges to transport grains along the Nile.
Port storage is also in limited supply, with Alexandria and Dekheila ports storing up to 1.6 million tonnes of grain and Damietta up to 1.2 million tonnes.
Tawfik estimates Egypt's overall grain demand is rising by around 1 million to 1.2 million tonnes each year.
"Increasing demand will be met by imports, so port logistics, transport and storage are where investments need to be made," he said.
(Reporting by Sarah McFarlane; Editing by Dan Grebler)