After Beirut silos gutted, Lebanon faces new wheat woes Aug 07, 2020

After Beirut silos gutted, Lebanon faces new wheat woes Aug 07, 2020

ISLAMABAD- Beirut, Precious wheat spilled out of disembowelled silos, mixing with soot, debris and cement: Beirut's port blast has gutted Lebanon's largest grain storage and sparked public panic over bread shortages.

                  The annihilation of the port in Tuesday's explosion has further strained food access for a population that relies on imports for 85 percent of what it eats.

                  That includes wheat to produce staple flat bread, mandatory at every Lebanese meal and now sold at the state-subsidised price of 2,000 Lebanese pounds per 900-gramme-bag.

                  "When we saw the silos, we panicked," said Ghassan Bou Habib, CEO of Lebanon's Wooden Bakery pastry franchise.

                  Some 15,000 tonnes of wheat, corn and barley were blasted out of the towering 55-year-old silos and a nearby mill was destroyed.

                  At least one ship unloading wheat during the explosion was damaged, its stocks inedible.

                  Lebanese bread makers and consumers fear the loss of the 120,000-tonne capacity silos will compound months of wheat worries, making bread harder to produce and ultimately more expensive for a population that has already seen its purchasing power slashed.

                  A liquidity crisis since the autumn saw banks halt dollar transfers abroad, which hampered imports.

                  Container activity had already declined by 45 percent in the first half of 2020 compared to last year, according to Blominvest Bank, while the staggering devaluation of the Lebanese pound led to major price hikes.

                  "We were already struggling with the (little) wheat and flour that were available. The mills weren't getting enough or they didn't have fuel to run," Bou Habib said.(AFP/APP)