Dozens of civilians were killed
recently in a town near the Syrian city of Hama while queuing for bread. Indeed, it appears that for some Syrians, who are not involved in the fighting, the current war is over bread, which has become a luxury for many.
So far, the price of a loaf of bread has reached 100 Syrian pounds (about $1.4) in Damascus. But in more remote places, where the fighting continues incessantly, the prices are even higher.
In the city of Aleppo, for example, a loaf of bread can cost up to 700 Syrian pounds ($9.85), and in Homs – 500 Syrian pounds ($7).
Airstrike on bakery in Hama district (Photo: Reuters)
Aleppo, which until July was considered Syria's
economic capital, has some six million residents (including the rural areas), requiring 1,200 tons of bread a day. According to estimates presented by opposition sources in the city, about 70% of local residents cannot afford to buy bread on a daily basis.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the entire $1 million in aid received from Qatar recently was used by the local opposition leadership to purchase bread – at the expense of opposition fighters' salaries.
The Syrian bread crisis is felt in neighboring Lebanon
as well. Some merchants are apparently taking advantage of the situation and smuggling large amounts of bread from Lebanon to Syria through the Beqaa Valley and northern Lebanon.
This is a worthwhile business, as bread is seven times more expensive in Syria than in Lebanon.
The smuggling of Lebanese bread into Syria creates hardship in the local market. Bakery owners in Lebanon recently demanded an increase in the amount of flour subsidized by the government from 18,000 to 20,000 tons, noting that the local demand for bread had significantly gone up in light of the unstoppable flow of tens of thousands of Syrian and Palestinian refugees from the fighting zones.
The bakery owners are also seeking to raise prices, offering a number of alternatives – including reducing the size of a loaf of bread, which currently weighs 900 grams (2 pounds). The size of bread in Lebanon was already reduced in 2007.
Meanwhile, in Syria, bread is not the only desired product. Merchants have reported a 50% decline in the demand for sweets compared to the same period last year due to the meteoric 60-70% price hike due to the rise in the cost of raw materials.
For example, the price of powdered sugar has gone up from 55 pounds ($0.77) to 85 ($1.20), while the price of a sack of flour has doubled from 1,900 pounds ($27) to more than 4,000 pounds ($56).
Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd.