By Adam Ali.
Benghazi, 2 April 2015:
Benghazi is running out of flour, because key stored supplies are cut off by the fighting. It . . .[restrict]is one of the many problems that the Benghazi Crisis Committee is seeking to fix as the city struggles to recover after ten months of fighting.
Committee head Zakaria Bitamer met Abdul Karim Dinari, president of the Union of Mills to see how the mills and and the committee can work together to keep flour supplies flowing.
Benghazi’s major grain storage, which supplies flour and other foods to the entire eastern region, isu currently isolated by fighting.
The Price Stability Fund, the state body responsible for controlling the cost of certain staples by releasing subsidised food s onto the market, has been unable to access the flour reserves stored at the warehouse.
The Crisis Committee is working with the mills to keep open a line of credit so that the mills can buy in flour which the Price Stability Fund can provide to the bakeries. It is reported that because the committee has good relationships with the mills, it has agreed to keep supplying the flour against future payments.
The eastern region’s two largest mills, Hased and Zad Kheir, have pledged to continue to provide flour to make up for the loss of the warehouse despite the fact that the government has not paid the mills for 14 months.
The Price Stability Fundmakes the difference between market prices and subsidized prices to entities such as bakeries. It will be recalled that Libya’s bakeries are supplied with state subsidized flour to make bread. A standard Libyan baguette, for example, costs LD 0.05. A similar sized baguette would cost LD 0.80 in the UK.
Though more than half of Benghazi’s some 590 bakeries have closed because of the clashes, the 240 or so that remain open each require over 250 bags of flour per week to meet demand for bread.
Even with the Crisis Committee’s efforts to keep a line of credit running with the mills, the solution is only temporary. Benghazi officials estimate that if the government is not able to pay its debts to the mills, the city could face a severe food crisis in six months.