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Lebanon faces unprecedented food security challenges after explosion destroys main grain silo

The recent blast in the capital of Lebanon, Beirut, destroyed the Middle Eastern country’s only large grain silo and this has plunged the country into an unprecedented food crisis.

The recent explosion destroyed the 120,000-tonne capacity silo and disabled the port, which serves as Lebanon’s main entry point for food imports. This means that buyers will have to turn to smaller, privately-owned storage facilities for grain purchases, raising concerns about food supplies.

Lebanon imports nearly all of its wheat.

“There are smaller storage sites within the private sector millers because they have to store wheat before it is milled into flour. In terms of grain silos, that was the only major one,” says Maurice Saade, the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in Lebanon.

With banks in crisis, a collapsing currency and one of the world’s biggest debt burdens, Economy Minister Raoul Nehme has said Lebanon had “very limited” resources to deal with the disaster, which by some estimates may have cost the nation up to $15 billion.

The country’s private millers, around eight in total, will have to navigate new logistics fast for the supply chain to run smoothly, even after some of them suffered damage from the blast.

This means trucking wheat to nearby warehouses at a time when most of the traffic meant for Beirut, not just wheat, will also be diverted to Tripoli.

Lebanon’s government also did not keep a strategic reserve of grains.

Meanwhile, Kuwait says that it will rebuild Lebanon’s only large grain silo .

The destruction of the 120,000-tonne capacity structure at the port, the main entry point for food imports, meant buyers must rely on smaller private storage facilities for their wheat purchases with no government reserves to fall back on.

Kuwait’s ambassador to Lebanon, Abdulaal al-Qenaie, said in comments to local radio, that the silo was first built in 1969 with a Kuwaiti development loan.

The Gulf monarchy will now rebuild the silo so it remains a symbol of “how to manage relations between two brotherly countries that respect each other”, Qenaie was cited as saying.

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