Fear of food shortages after Beirut explosion hits grain reserves

Fear of food shortages after Beirut explosion hits grain reserves
The blast at Beirut port left Lebanon with less than a month’s reserves of grain. (AFP)
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Updated 06 August 2020

Fear of food shortages after Beirut explosion hits grain reserves

Fear of food shortages after Beirut explosion hits grain reserves
  • Beirut port silos had capacity for 120,000 tons

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s main grain silo at Beirut port was destroyed in a blast, leaving the nation with less than a month’s reserves of grain but enough flour to avoid a crisis, the economy minister said on Wednesday.

Raoul Nehme told Reuters a day after Tuesday’s devastating explosion that Lebanon needed reserves for at least three months to ensure food security and was looking at other storage areas.

The explosion was the most powerful ever to rip through Beirut, a city torn apart by civil war three decades ago. The economy was already in meltdown before the blast, slowing grain imports as the nation struggled to find hard currency for purchases.

“There is no bread or flour crisis,” the minister said. “We have enough inventory and boats on their way to cover the needs of Lebanon on the long term.”

He said grain reserves in Lebanon’s remaining silos stood at “a bit less than a month,” but said the destroyed silos had only held 15,000 tons of the grain at the time, much less than capacity which one official put at 120,000 tons.

Beirut’s port district was a mangled wreck, disabling the main entry point for imports to feed a nation of more than 6 million people.

Ahmed Tamer, the director of Tripoli port, Lebanon’s second biggest facility, said his port did not have grain storage but cargoes could be taken to warehouses 2 km (about one mile) away.

Alongside Tripoli, the ports of Saida, Selaata and Jiyeh were also equipped to handle grain, the economy minister said.

“We fear there will be a huge supply chain problem, unless there is an international consensus to save us,” said Hani Bohsali, head of the importers’ syndicate.

UN agencies are meeting on Wednesday to coordinate relief efforts for Beirut, Tamara Al-Rifai, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, said from Amman. “People are extremely poor, it’s increasingly difficult for anyone to buy food, and the fact that Beirut is the largest port in Lebanon makes it a very bad situation,” she said.

“We are looking at Tripoli, but it is a much smaller port.”

Reserves of flour were sufficient to cover market needs for a month and a half and there were four ships carrying 28,000 tons of wheat heading to Lebanon, Ahmed Hattit, head of the wheat importers union, told Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Lebanon is trying to transfer immediately four vessels carrying 25,000 tons of flour to the port in Tripoli, one official told LBCI news channel.


Asia to dominate Davos virtual forum as virus-hit West struggles

Asia to dominate Davos virtual forum as virus-hit West struggles
The 2020 WEF, which took place in its usual Swiss Alpine resort of Davos, saw the global elite just starting to worry about a pandemic that surfaced in China a month earlier. (Shutterstock)
Updated 55 min 34 sec ago

Asia to dominate Davos virtual forum as virus-hit West struggles

Asia to dominate Davos virtual forum as virus-hit West struggles
  • Spotlight will be on Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will give a speech on Monday — the opening day of the event

PARIS: Emerging stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic, Asia is set to dominate this year’s virtual World Economic Forum as a virus-battered West struggles and a new US president faces particularly daunting challenges.

The 2020 WEF, which took place in its usual Swiss Alpine resort of Davos, saw the global elite just starting to worry about a pandemic that surfaced in China a month earlier.
While the coronavirus leaves a mounting death toll and upends economies, depriving millions of people of work, China and Asian countries in 2021 are making a strong comeback from the virus that hit them first.
In virtual format because of the pandemic, next week’s event is headlined: “A Crucial Year to Rebuild Trust.”
The spotlight will be on Chinese President Xi Jinping, who will give a speech on Monday, the opening day of the event that will last through next Friday.
The big names from Europe will be German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who heads the EU executive.
US President Joe Biden will not appear at the virtual Davos, which has never been a fixture on the White House calendar — even if the new administration has pledged to revive a US multilateral foreign policy after four years of Donald Trump’s America First approach.
Trump had been an exception as he stopped in Davos twice, with the real estate billionaire enjoying mixing with the global business elite.
Before him, Bill Clinton was the only American president who had traveled to Davos, and that was just once.
Showing up from Asia are China’s and South Korea’s presidents as well as the prime ministers of India and Japan.
Following the first virtual session, Davos will move in May to Singapore, far from the luxury Swiss ski resort where it has taken place since it was launched in 1971, the brainchild of German professor Klaus Schwab.
The stated reason for the changes is health safety.

FASTFACT

The big names from Europe will be German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who heads the EU executive.

But a virtual forum is not particularly attractive for the world’s well-heeled movers and shakers, who value huddles behind closed doors in fancy hotels over meetings in formal settings.
French insurance-credit group Euler Hermes said in a study this month that the “world’s economic center of gravity” (WECG) has been moving toward Asia since 2002.
“The COVID-19 crisis could accelerate the shifting global balance toward Asia,” it added.
“By 2030, we forecast the WECG, could be located around the confluence of China, India and Pakistan,” the study projected.
The speech by Xi, who addressed Davos back in 2017, seems almost to set the clock back, as if the business world seeks to erase the Trump era.
Four years ago, he presented himself as the champion of free trade, much to the joy of Davos participants who feared the newly elected Trump’s protectionist moves.
Biden is nevertheless sending John Kerry, the special climate envoy who will be welcomed after the new Democratic president has brought Washington back into the Paris climate accord.
The agenda includes workshops titled: “Stakeholder Capitalism: Building the Future” as well as “Advancing a New Social Contract” and “Resetting Consumption for a Sustainable Future.”
In a column published in mid-January, Schwab said 2021 could be a positive and historic year, 75 years after the original “Year Zero” following the devastation of World War II.
“We once again have a chance to rebuild,” he said, calling for rethinking capitalism in the light of a pandemic that has worsened inequality.
He said “COVID-19 has delivered the final blow” to the post-war model where free markets and limited government produced prosperity and progress that now is “no longer sustainable, environmentally or socially.”