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Lebanon's PM warns country at risk of 'major food crisis'

Diab has urged the EU and US to help Lebanon [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 May, 2020

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The financial crisis in Lebanon could lead to a major food crisis, the country's premier has warned.
Lebanon's Prime Minister Hassan Diab has warned that the country is at risk of a "major food crisis", urging the US and EU to do more to avert starvation in the region.

Writing in The Washington Post, Diab said that the Lebanon's financial crisis has led to people struggling to afford fresh vegetables and meat, in what was once a food secure country.

"Once the breadbasket of the Eastern Mediterranean, Lebanon is facing a dramatic challenge that seemed unimaginable a decade ago: the risk of a major food crisis," he wrote in the daily.

"A few weeks ago, Lebanon witnessed its first 'hunger protests.' Many Lebanese have already stopped buying meat, fruits and vegetables, and may soon find it difficult to afford even bread."

He warned that extreme hunger could force thousands in the Middle East to flee to Europe, urging western countries to do more to avert a major food crisis that would have massice ramifications for the world.

"Starvation may spark a new migration flow to Europe and further destabilize the region," he wrote, according to Reuters.

Lebanon is in the grips of its worst economic crisis in decades, with the depreciating lira pushing up prices of food imports and putting basic goods - including staples - out of reach of ordinary people.

Lockdowns imposed by the government to stop the spread of Covid-19 have also had a huge effect on economic output and living standards.

Diab wrote that the coronavirus crisis has "dramatically worsened the economic crisis and profoundly disrupted the food supply chain".

Russia and Ukraine account for 80 percent of wheat imports to Lebanon, making bread production hugely reliant on this supply chain.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak, Russia has cut wheat exports to Lebanon, while Ukraine is considering a similar move, according to Reuters.

Protests over poverty erupted in Tripoli last month, following a widescale revolt last year that led to the fall of the previous government.

Diab was elected PM after approval from Hezbollah and other parties, and has urged the US and EU to set up an emergency fund to tackle the financial crisis in Lebanon and wider region.

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