Bread Policy in Syria

It is impossible for a country in the world to withstand a global multi-faced war such as the one Syria has been facing over the past eight years. Foreign-backed terrorism coming from different parts of the world as well as a western blockade and unilateral coercive economic measures accompanied by a dirty media war against the country have aimed to subjugate the Syrian people and force the country to bow to the west's pressure.

During the past eight years of the war on Syria, the Syrians' livelihood has been one of the major targets of the terrorist groups' attacks and the western sanctions, adding more burdens on the Syrian government and affecting its ability to meet the basic needs of citizens. However, the government has worked hard around the clock to withstand the crisis and enhance the steadfastness of the Syrian people by supporting the elements of this steadfastness, mainly food, with bread at the top. 

"Ensuring food security and meeting the citizens' basic and daily needs of food, particularly the subsidized bread, has been the top priority and main concern of the Syrian government for decades," Assistant Minster of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection Jamal Eddin Shuaib said in an interview with the Syriatimes e-newspaper, reiterating that the government's support for bread will never change under any circumstances and it is a "red line".

 “As a ministry, we follow up on the process of producing, harvesting, storing and buying wheat from farmers in subsidized price- SYP 185 for a kilo- in a bid by the government and the Syrian top political leadership to encourage farmers to keep growing this very strategic crop. After the storing and buying process we sent the wheat for grinding to get the flour to present it to public and private bakeries countrywide,” he said. 

During the crisis, many bakeries went out of service because of the terrorist attacks and the ongoing fight against terrorism and the government has had to face the challenge through speeding up bread production as to meet the big demand on this important food material and to keep the price of a bag of subsidized bread acceptable to every Syrian citizen.

The total cost of producing a bag of subsidized bread weighing 1300 grams is SYP 300, including the costs of the flour, diesel oil and workers salaries, but the government presents this same bag at SYP 50, Mr. Shuaib clarified, noting that the government pays around SYP 1.1 billion on a daily basis that equals some SYP 400 billion a year to ensure bread to citizens.

Even in the hardest of times during the crisis, bread production has never stopped because of the government's support and this support has played a key role in consolidating the steadfastness of the Syrian citizens in the face of the terrorist war on Syria, according to Mr. Shu’aib.

He pointed out that all the wheat necessary for the production of bread over the past years of the war came from safe areas under the control of the Syrian Arab army, because we couldn't reach many areas that were held by the terrorists and where wheat was heavily grown.

The assistant minister denied rumors about a government plan to increase the price of bread or make it available only via smart cards.

These are only rumors aiming at weakening the steadfastness of the Syrians and distorting the government's image," he said.

Concerning the quality of bread, he made it clear that the quality is good in all public bakeries and most private bakeries working under the supervision of the ministry with some exceptions due to technical reasons or corruption. However, he added, monitoring teams work all the time to prevent such violations.

Challenges

One of the recent troubles facing the ministry is a recent illicit trafficking and misusing of subsidized bread. Some corrupt traders collect huge a mounts of bread from bakeries so as to sell them as animal food in the light of high prices of fodders.  

 "This is a crime against the national economy," said Mr. Shu’aib, adding that such negative phenomenon creates crowdedness and deprives other citizens from their quota of their daily meal, the bread.

"We have enough reserve of wheat and yeast and oil that can meet the country's need for the coming two years."

Moreover, Mr. Shuaib said, at the beginning of the terrorist war on Syria, some misled Syrians in cooperation with corrupt parties used to buy huge quantities of subsidized bread and throw them in garbage containers or sewerage in order to deprive citizens from bread and undermine their steadfastness.

Also, the US occupation troops in Syria, on several occasions, blocked oil deliveries by attacking oil tankers coming to Syria from allies and prevented necessary food materials from entering the country, Mr. Shu’aib went on to say, pointing out that the western sanctions plus the US troops and terrorist groups' attacks have led to an increase in the prices of all goods, thereby affecting citizens' ability to buy their food.

Regarding the situation of the country’s bakeries, Director General of the General Company for Bakeries in Syria Jalil Ibrahim said the company has 13 branches in all Syrian provinces supervising 271 public bakeries. 179 are still operating and never stopped production while 88 ones are out of service because of the war on Syria.

“Eevery month we open one or two bakeries thanks to the heroes of Syrian Arab army who drove terrorists out of many areas,” Mr. Ibrahim said, noting that “every time a terrorist-held area is liberated we rehabilitate and re-operate the public bakeries there”.

He added that some 1400 private bakeries are working across Syria, noting that bread quality violations and flour smuggling activities are committed in some of these private bakeries. These violations are monitored by the consumer protection directorates in all the Syrian governorates which in turn adopt necessary deterrent procedures.

Concerning the investment plan of the company, he said that 90% of the projects that started in 2018 and the projects provided in the investment plan for the first half of 2019 have been achieved.  

According to Mr. Ibrahim, the company has carried out maintenance for all the bakeries in most provinces. It has also established new bakeries in Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Tartous, Lattakia, Daraa and Deir Ezzor.

The company is keen on ensuring production requirements continuously in order to ensure the bread to all citizens in a subsidized price and good quality.

About the volume of production, Jalil said the company has produced 373214 tons of bread in the first half of 2019.

“We receive flour and diesel fuel from concerned parties and in turn we ensure the yeast necessary to produce the bread, which is now enough to “feed half of the Syrian population”, Mr. Ibrahim added.

 “We managed to re-operate more than 7 bakeries in Daraa after liberation from terrorism, 5 bakeries in Deir Ezour, and more than 8 bakeries in Aleppo, he went on saying.

In addition more than 10 bakeries are under construction in Lattakia, Tartous, Hama and Homs.   

Interviewed By: Hamda Mustafa

Photoes Mahfouz Abou Hadier

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