Lebanon averts wheat crisis through World Bank loan

By August 1, 2022

Lebanon (MNN) — Lebanon desperately needs foreign funding to avoid total collapse. However, to unlock that funding, it has to remove subsidies on wheat.

“The wheat crisis is getting worse and worse. At the bakeries today, you can find 300 to 400 people waiting in line for one bag of bread,” Heart for Lebanon co-founder Camille Melki says.

“If the government raises or removes the subsidy, this bread [cost] will multiply tenfold.”

According to Mercy Corps, the price of wheat flour rose 209 percent following Russia’s onslaught in Ukraine, and it’s up by 330 percent since the 2019 economic crisis began. On Tuesday, Lebanon’s Parliament secured a World Bank loan to purchase wheat for the next six- to nine months.

(Photo courtesy of Karolina Grabowska/Pexels)

“The government has been threatening to remove that (wheat) subsidy for the last two months,” he says.

“[Subsidies] cross over [everyone] whether you’re poor or not. They (foreign aid agencies) want to change it to food coupons, food vouchers, to [ensure resources go] to people in greater need.”

So far, wheat subsidies remain in place. However, changing or removing that provision could affect Lebanon’s relationship with neighboring Syria. Right now, some people in Lebanon use subsidies to buy extra bread and other supplies, smuggling them across the border to sell at a profit.

“Our products, though expensive and hard to get, are cheaper and more accessible than in Syria. Syria is not very happy [about proposed changes] and putting a lot of pressure on its allies in Lebanon not to remove those subsidies,” Melki says.

“Our country is tied at the hip with Syria. Half of what comes here to Lebanon goes across the border (to Syria).”

Heart for Lebanon pairs emergency food aid with the Bread of Life in its holistic outreach programs. Learn more here. Pray Heart for Lebanon gets the funding it needs to meet rising operational costs.



Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy of Paz Arando/Unsplash.

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