“Can’t buy an egg”… Food insecurity threatens generations of Lebanese

The egg carton, or what the Lebanese call the “egg carton” (30 eggs), set a record price of 100,000 pounds for a number of brands (equivalent to $75 at the official exchange rate), while the average price of eggs in general ranged between 75,000 and 90,000 pounds. , a record high that exceeded the most pessimistic expectations in this area.

A price that shocked Lebanese, who used to have eggs as the easiest and cheapest option when needed, when today the price is almost one sixth of the country’s minimum wage of £675,000 of public and private sector workers in Lebanon. , while today, according to the black market exchange rate, it is only worth about $28.

Eggs are an essential ingredient in many desirable dishes and sweets in Lebanon and are a necessary part of the food pyramid. Today, buying it has become a luxury, if not a luxury, out of reach for the largest segment of Lebanese. until it is sold in single-egg stores, while supermarkets and commercial centers have introduced bouquets of just 3 eggs, to keep up with this terrifying price hike, which is far beyond the purchasing power of citizens.

On Tuesday, the World Bank released a report revealing a massive expansion of Lebanon’s poverty belt, with new categories of about 2.3 million inhabitants, divided among 1.5 million Lebanese and 780,000 displaced Syrians. According to ESCWA, poverty in Lebanon has worsened dramatically in just one year, reaching about 74% of the total population.

taboo list

Amal Khatib, 42, a mother of 4, included eggs on the “taboo list” in her home, a list that now includes the types of foods they withhold because their prices exceed the family’s purchasing power. The Amal list includes red meat and fish, cheese and dairy, many fruits and vegetables, and a variety of food and canned goods, especially imported ones that are sold based on their dollar price.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, Lebanon imports 85 percent of its food needs, while 50 percent of Lebanese are concerned about their inability to provide food, in the face of food price inflation of about 402 percent.

Today, the price of a kilogram of red meat reached an all-time high, the highest since the beginning of the economic crisis in Lebanon, between 230 and 250 thousand Lebanese pounds, while sales from butcher shops and meat departments fell significantly, reaching 80%, according to estimates. several butcher shops closed their doors, permanently to customers in a number of Lebanese regions.

“Soon, if their prices continue to rise at this rate, lentils and chickpeas will be on the list,” Amal confirms, adding: “Grains are the last thing we can rely on in our daily meals. However, a kilogram of lentils is approaching 60,000 Syrian pounds, and chickpeas follow in his footsteps. We live on what we could prepare from winter mouna and some cheap vegetables, besides just Egyptian pasta and rice, and we relied on eggs, especially for breakfast, and preparing home sweets, but with we were forced to forgo these prices.”

The price of a kilogram of municipal “labneh” also exceeded 140,000 Lebanese pounds, while the price of a kilogram of halloumi cheese also reached an all-time high, at 180,000 pounds. Even a bundle of bread, which is almost the only food item subsidized by the Lebanese state, has also reached the £10,000 mark and is expected to rise in the coming days due to the bakery owners’ objection to the price.

The egg has its stock

In the memory of Omar blog, eggs were associated with lean days: “We used to cook eggs and potatoes on Mondays, the day of the butcher’s holiday, or at the end of the month when my father’s salary was no longer enough to afford meat. buy and prepare expensive dishes but today my salary is not able to support the cost of one egg a day Can anyone in the world imagine not being able to buy an egg every day?

On the other hand, the head of the Poultry Breeders Syndicate, Moussa Freiji, doesn’t think the price of eggs is high at all. “We cannot judge the price without comparing the product with its equivalent nutritional value in another food. In this place, the nutritional value of eggs is only equal to milk, whose price on the market today is 3 times the price of eggs, and therefore the price of eggs in Lebanon is very cheap,” says Frey.

The captain denies that a carton of eggs has reached the price of 100,000 pounds: “The price of a farmer’s egg carton today ranges between 65 and 70,000 pounds, and no more, and municipal eggs are much more expensive because of their scarcity. for the egg cartons to be sold at a higher price than this one, it is because of the greed of traders who increase their winning rates, and here the Ministry of Economy and the Directorate of Consumer Protection are supposed to play their supervisory role over the markets and control this price manipulation , especially since today the farmer delivers the egg carton at a price of 60,000 Syrian pounds, or 2,000 pounds per egg.”

In his interview with Al-Hurra, he added that the problem is no longer food prices, but rather a wage problem in Lebanon, especially in the public sector, where the Lebanese state, according to Freji, is expected to “adjust wages” . for its employees and set a new minimum wage to keep up with price increases and the collapse of the purchasing power of salaries rather than lowering the prices of goods.

Freji accuses the state of failing to carry out its duties, as the private sector preceded the government to raise wages: “We started charging £3 million as minimum wage for workers in poultry and egg farms without waiting for Lebanese procedures of the state and the official increase in the minimum wage, and like us, several sectors have done so to preserve its workers and workers and their rights to cover their costs rather than their fatigue at work.
Omar asks: “How can a mind understand the increase in the value of an egg carton from 7 thousand pounds to 70,000 or 100 thousand pounds? I have not understood the relationship between eggs and the dollar since the beginning of the crisis, it is local and agricultural production.

Omar’s question is asked by a large number of Lebanese and Freji answers it with a reference to the price of feed imported in dollars from abroad, while the Lebanese state no longer supports it: “Feed represents 75% of the production cost, and nothing is paid by the peasant in Lebanese pounds except the wages of his workers and the cost of state power.” Furthermore, it is all in dollars, so it is normal that the price of eggs will rise as the dollar price rises.”

irreplaceable nutritional value

Omar stopped buying eggs “because the price of the box reached 50 thousand”, like Amal, and like her, a large number of residents of Lebanon abandoned this product in their diet. A system that lacks very important nutrients such as proteins and vitamins, which are not compensated by the alternatives that the poor of Lebanon are resorting to because of the cost, which takes precedence over health and food safety.

But it is unfortunate that eggs are considered one of the foods that cannot be replaced in every sense of the word. According to nutrition professor Mirna El-Fata, the quality of protein in eggs is not available in meat or plants because it contains amino acids that are absorbed more quickly by the body. properly build the muscles of the body, in addition to what it contains in iron, weight, vitamins, fats and choline necessary for building cell membranes, which are not present in all plant-based alternatives.

According to the boy, eggs also contain all kinds of B-complex vitamins that we need to grow and face various health problems. Eggs are also of particular importance to breastfeeding women as they need them on a daily basis to be able to produce milk in the necessary amounts and nutrients needed by the baby.

“This unfortunate reality threatens the food security of the Lebanese in a very big way,” said the nutritionist, confirming that “the proteins that the Lebanese eat today are often not of good quality for the body, especially if they depend on vegetable protein sources, because vegetable protein is good, but its absorption by the body is less and it contains less iron, and therefore does not completely replace animal protein sources.”

Reducing the consumption of eggs, meat and fish, according to the expert, leads to a loss of the amount of muscle in the body, and also reduces the rate at which iron, magnesium and zinc are obtained, and these substances are “available in lower percentages in legumes and nuts, but these foods are also very expensive in Lebanon and not everyone can buy them.” “.

And the professor warns of the problems that may lie in the approved alternatives to animal proteins, “such as soy, for example, which is now used as a substitute for meat. Soy, on the other hand, contains very high levels of estrogen, and it is not suitable for men in high levels. degree, as well as for women, as it affects the regularity of the menstrual cycle. Therefore, the nutritional content of any alternatives should be studied before adopting them.”

It also warns of the products offered in the Lebanese cheese and dairy market, which “witness great fraud, as they contain large amounts of salt, water and processed fats, in addition to extensive use of starch to combine these presented mixtures. to attach.” like cheese, without fat or food, and the issue is The same goes for milk and labneh.

Generational hazards

This imbalance in the Lebanese’s diet will lead them to another system that relies on high amounts of carbohydrates for less protein, the professor said, “and thus they enter a society that suffers from a very high percentage of cholesterol and diabetes, and because we lose a lot of muscle in the body, we will have problems with the body’s energy to move, while the causes of inflammation in the body will increase, and it will lead to more spread of chronic diseases.”

These diseases will be a major future problem for Lebanese society: “We will witness a decrease in the body’s immunity to diseases, the same diseases will be repeated and the recovery time will become longer, while the rate of catching diseases is much bigger,” said Mirna.

With regard to children, the imbalance in the current diet will lead to a delay in physical and intellectual development due to the low percentage of meat, fish and grains and the greater dependence on starch and sugars. The nutritionist concludes: “In the long term, in Lebanon we may see a decrease in height due to poor growth, in addition to a decrease in health safety and a decrease in immunity. What is happening today threatens future generations with unacceptable destruction of health.”

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