Lebanon at risk of major food crisis, PM warns

Hassan Diab also warned of a global food security emergency triggered by the pandemic. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 May 2020

Lebanon at risk of major food crisis, PM warns

  • Imported food prices had more than doubled since the start of 2020
  • Eighty percent of Lebanon’s wheat had been coming from Ukraine and Russia

BEIRUT: Lebanon is at risk of a major food crisis and many Lebanese may soon find it hard to afford bread because of an acute financial crunch and the fall-out of COVID-19, the prime minister warned.
Writing in the Washington Post, Hassan Diab also warned of a global food security emergency triggered by the pandemic. He said attempts to restrict food exports must be resisted and called on the United States and the European Union to set up an emergency fund to help the Middle East avoid a severe crisis.
Otherwise, “starvation may spark a new migration flow to Europe and further destabilize the region,” he wrote.
Lebanon was in deep crisis even before COVID-19. The local currency has more than halved in value since October amid a hard currency liquidity shortage. Inflation and unemployment are soaring. Lebanon defaulted on its sovereign debt in March.

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Imported food prices had more than doubled since the start of 2020, Diab wrote. More than half of Lebanon’s food is imported.
“Once the breadbasket of the Eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon is facing a dramatic challenge that seemed unimaginable a decade ago: the risk of a major food crisis,” Diab wrote.
“A few weeks ago, Lebanon witnessed its first ‘hunger protests.’ Many Lebanese have already stopped buying meat, fruits and vegetables, and may soon find it difficult to afford even bread.”
Diab, who took office this year with backing from the Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah and its allies, also blamed decades of political mismanagement and corruption for a lack of investment in agriculture.
COVID-19 and lockdowns had “dramatically worsened the economic crisis and profoundly disrupted the food supply chain.”
Eighty percent of Lebanon’s wheat had been coming from Ukraine and Russia, but last month, Russia suspended wheat exports, while Ukraine is considering a similar move, he said.


Kuwait calls for understanding on spending cuts amid coronavirus pandemic

Updated 33 min 58 sec ago

Kuwait calls for understanding on spending cuts amid coronavirus pandemic

  • Kuwait's stimulus package includes a reduction in its discount rate and an offer of up to $811,000 in soft loans for owners of SMEs

DUBAI: Kuwait’s prime minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah called for understanding on ‘critical circumstances’ that required the country to cut spending to address the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on economy, state news agency KUNA reported.
Al-Sabah, who earlier chaired an online cabinet briefing on a government stimulus package, added that authorities should follow all the rules and present “serious cooperation in order to overcome this phase with the least damage possible.”
The stimulus package includes a reduction in its discount rate and an offer of up to $811,000 in soft loans for owners of small to medium-sized enterprises and payable in four years.
A delay in helping companies and SMEs would negatively impact the country’s economy to the extent that they may go bankrupt, Kuwait’s central bank chief Dr. Mohammad Al-Hashel said.
The Kuwaiti cabinet has also approved the Ministry of Finance’s proposals to not raise budgets of independent public authorities, institutions and funds for five years, and also lowering their budgets by 20 percent for the years 2020 and 2021.