Lebanon: Supermarkets are becoming a focal point in the battle for survival

Public anger over Lebanon’s worst economic crisis is spreading in its supermarkets, with fights going viral on social media, pushing for a drop in subsidized milk, rice and oil products.

Analysts say Lebanon could soon go hungry if the government does not change its strategy to properly deal with the social consequences of the crisis.

“If there is meat, we give it to the kids and eat something else,” said Rakita Hewis, 47, an accountant in Beirut.

“We will soon be eating only bread to feed the children,” said his elderly mother.

Their bill for oil, milk, rice and coffee is four times higher than it hit the country in late 2019. The women said they would drop traditional home-made Easter cakes this weekend because pistachios, an important ingredient, are uncontrollable.

Lebanon relies on imports to feed its people, and their prices have risen at the rate of the fall of the local currency, which has lost 90 percent of its value against the dollar since late 2019. In a report last month, the World Bank said Lebanon had the highest food prices in the region.

But income does not change. Two million Lebanese pounds a month, Ms Hewis’ salary is $ 1,333. This was three times the minimum wage, which guaranteed her a good standard of living.

Now that equals $ 160, not enough to eat. “We are educated, it’s a shame we have to live like this,” he said.

Others could not afford the basics. Tony, 60, scans the prices and then puts the three small bags of macaroni, semolina and sugar back on the shelf. “These prices are amazing,” he said sarcastically.

Tony lost a salary of 600 600,000 a month when he was fired from his job due to the crisis. “I will try another supermarket to see if I can find products at subsidized prices,” he said.

Like Tony, many people spend hours going from supermarket to supermarket, finding stocks that fall in subsidized prices such as rice, oil and sugar.

Supermarket owners buy these products in short supply, while importers buy less because the government has no money, making it impossible to make up the difference between the market cost and the selling price.

Nabil Baheed, president of the department store owners’ association, said the government had reduced the number of subsidized items from 300 last summer to 30 today. Care Minister Raul Nehm did not respond to a request for comment.

“People think there will be a shortage, so they start hoarding,” Mr Fahed said. National. “On top of that, their business is to collect and resell these items,” he said.

Last week, one of his two supermarkets north of Beirut sold 5,000 gallons of subsidized cooking oil in five hours. Usually, this takes a month. Three weeks ago at a local supermarket chain called Circuitier Aun, 70 gallons of oil went down in minutes. “People are buying frantically,” said marketing manager Riyadh Girella.

Recently, Circuitier Aun, like many supermarkets, began to allow only one subsidized product per customer. But such rations demanded that angry shopkeepers buy more or knock violently at each other to reach the shelves.

“When you start the ration, it is not done properly and then you will have conflict and friction. Our staff is not trained for this,” Mr Fahed said, asking the Ministry of Economy to replace subsidized items with card systems to help poor families buy petrol, food and medicine.

On March 12, parliament approved a total of $ 246 million in World Bank loan financing for the poor.

But the problem is that there is no policy strategy, said Mary-Noel Abi Yaki, a professor at the Institute of Political Science at St. Joseph’s University in Beirut.

“The government is simply kicking the cane by accepting tentative decisions like subsidies and money transfers,” he said. National.

“Historically, social rights have been outsourced to the private sector and charities, which have further widened the divide between the governor and the state, fostering solidarity and confession, but also broken the democratic processes of accountability and political participation,” he said.

“Apart from poverty alleviation programs, the government should pursue an overall social policy based on a solid social security system that guarantees the rights of all,” she said.

Everything was expensive and we could not buy anything

Diana Kirus, housewife

The shortage of subsidized goods has changed public opinion against supermarkets and has since spread rumors that they are hiding stocks to sell at higher prices. Enthusiasts are constantly organizing surprise experiments. “We are doing the government’s job,” said activist Fadi Kanch. “We expect a social explosion.”

Mr Fahed denied the allegations, saying they were born out of a misunderstanding after the union decided to start planning a display of manufactured goods at subsidized prices with the Ministry of Economy.

But after activists began organizing the tests, some supermarkets refused to take the goods at subsidized prices. Mr Fahad stopped regulating their sales in his stores. “It is not our responsibility to regulate distribution,” he said. “We tried to play it fair. You can’t be fair when you are accused.”

Lebanon’s poor are avoiding over-reliance on charities to get food, medicine and clothing at supermarkets.

“Everything is expensive and we can’t afford anything,” said Diana Kirus, 33, a housewife with two young children.

Juliette Warsaw, 52, a nun who has been running a boarding house for women for the past 30 years and arranging food distribution in the northeastern suburb of Beirut, said, “I have never seen this situation.” “People are no longer ashamed to ask for help.”

Updated: April 2, 2021 10:22 AM

Sophia Harrison

Part time worker

I'm Sophia Harrison working as a part-time staff at the Costco since the past year until I become as an author at the iron blade, hope I can use my experiences with the supermarkets here.

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