World sending flour to help Lebanon make bread
The World Food Programme will send 50,000 tons of wheat flour to Lebanon as an international aid after last week’s blast at Beirut’s port destroyed its only silo with all the private stocks held there, the UN food-assistance branch said on Tuesday.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report said the flour would be sent “to stabilize the national supply and ensure there is no food shortage in the country.”
Lebanon’s government had no strategic stockpile of grain before the explosion and all privately-held stocks at the country’s only grain silo were destroyed.
Flour reserves in Lebanon are estimated to cover market needs for six weeks.
“An initial shipment of 17,500 tons is due to arrive in Beirut within the coming 10 days to supply bakeries for one month,” the UN said. Lebanon consumes between 35,000 to 40,000 tons of wheat a month.
With no large grain silos to store wheat, sending the shipments as flour is more efficient, Hesham Hassanein, regional grain consultant said.
“Flour comes in bags and is ready to distribute to be baked to bread versus wheat that needs to be milled,” Hassanein said.
Damage at the port from the blast is under assessment and most traffic is being diverted to the northern port of Tripoli, which has only about a third of Beirut’s capacity.
The UN report said the Beirut port was expected to remain inoperable for at least a month.
“A temporary bulk receiving facility is needed for grain imports to ensure adequate national stocks,” it said.
The French millers’ association said it was shipping 500 tons of wheat flour to Lebanon as a donation from its stocks.
A first consignment of 250 tons left the southern French port of Toulon on Sunday aboard a navy vessel, and the rest of the flour was due to be shipped yesterday.
France’s wheat growers association is in talks with grain companies to assemble 25,000 tons of wheat to send to Lebanon, its president, Eric Thirouin, said.