BEIRUT – A newspaper close to the Bashar al-Assad government has warned that the Syrian capital is facing an impending “bread crisis” as regime-controlled of the areas continue to face worsening economic turmoil.
Al-Watan published an article overnight Tuesday under the caustic headline “Bread… a crisis on the way! A decision to reduce the flour for auxiliary bakeries by 30%, and the ministry doesn’t know!”
The newspaper—which is owned by Assad’s billionaire cousin Rami Makhlouf—leveled a critical tone against the state officials involved with state-owned auxiliary bakeries, which produce a majority of the government-subsidized bread bought in Damascus and surrounding areas.
According to the article, the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection reduced flour allocation to the bakeries by 30%, while at the same ordering the facilities to cut their shifts and only open 16 hours a day.
Al-Watan calculated that the bakeries will be forced to lower their production from 20,000-tons of bread monthly to 14,000-tons, or a 235-ton decrease per day.
The 33 auxiliary bakeries in the Damascus and Rif Dimashq provinces “provide about 60% of the [bread] needs of the citizens” in the capital region, the newspaper explained.
Al-Watan correspondent Abd al-Hadi Shabbat spoke with the Director of Supply in Damascus on the matter, who insisted that bakeries were working well and there were no cases of breadlines, even though the journalist himself wrote that crowds had been spotted the day before.
The pro-regime writer then followed-up his investigation with the Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Trade, however relevant officials professed they were completely unaware of the decrease in flour allocation.
The director of materials in the ministry, meanwhile, did not answer calls from Al-Watan since was “outside Damascus on business.”
Al-Watan’s article ended with a jibe against the Ministry of Internal Trade’s decision to curtail bread production, which will “impact citizens and their ability to secure a loaf of bread.”
“We hope that the ministry won’t lose its semi-single achievement after [failing] in number of [its other] duties that citizens rely on.”
NOW's English news desk editor Albin Szakola (@AlbinSzakola) wrote this report. Amin Nasr translated the Arabic-language source material.