BEIRUT, SIDON: Lebanon’s government has agreed to disburse $15 million to temporarily resolve growing bread shortages in the country, Economy Minister Amin Salam told Reuters, while saying that the funds would only last a few weeks.
Long lines had begun forming outside bakeries across the country since Monday after industry insiders warned that the government had not extended a long-promised credit line for the subsidized good.
“I’ve been looking around since the morning but I couldn’t find any bread - there’s none at all,” Mohammad Mustapha, one shopper in the southern city of Sidon, told Reuters.
“I have small children to feed, and it’s Ramadan,” he said, referring to the holy month for Muslims in which day-long fasts are broken with evening meals.
Salam said the government would disburse $15.3 million in credit to importers as a “solution to the issue of subsidized bread.”
“This will give us a period of about two to three weeks before we need to open another credit line, which we had requested at $21 million,” Salam said.
He said the government was not currently considering lifting bread subsidies and would instead seek a $150 million agreement with the World Bank to improve food security because in the long term “we won’t be able to subsidize anything, much less bread.”
Lebanon is heavily reliant on food imports and pays for them in dollars, which have become increasingly difficult to obtain since its economy crashed in 2019.
Since then, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90percent of its value while food prices have gone up more than elevenfold, according to the World Food Programme.
In a separate development, an explosion ripped through a building in southern Lebanon early on Tuesday, killing one person and wounding several others, a Lebanese security official said.
The blast in the town of Banaafoul, near the port city of Sidon, demolished the two-floor building that had served as the local municipality headquarters and a scout center for the Shiite Amal militia, headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
According to the security official, the dead person was the son of the town’s mayor. Five people were injured, the official said, revising his earlier figure of seven wounded. It was not immediately clear what triggered the blast, which also caused material damage to nearby buildings and cars.