Many public and private bakeries have been opened within the areas controlled by the opposition in the north of Syria in order to secure bread, the strategic commodity. This was the result of the population growth in Idlib and its countryside that was in itself caused by the displacement of members of the opposing factions and their families by the Syria regime. Additionally, the northern countryside of Aleppo has regained its ordinary life after the expulsion of “ISIS” and the return of the citizens back home.
The production of these bakeries relies on the provision of flour, the strategic substance, especially in the light of the decline of wheat crop cultivation in Syria due to the ongoing war.
Three Sources of Flour
At the beginning, the owners of the bakeries purchased the flour, which is brought by the merchants to the north of Syria, from the local market. However, the flour was sold at high prices, as the kilo cost 150 Syrian Pounds, and that caused the price of a bundle of bread to reach 200 Syrian pounds.
According to the data provided by Mannah Deeb, the information officer in the Committee for the Restoration of Stability in the countryside of Aleppo, providing flour depends on two sources in the region. Deeb said in an interview with Enab Baladi that flour is provided by the General Grains Organization of the Syrian Interim Government, in addition to two Turkish organizations, namely: “IFAD” and “IHH.”
Despite the availability of flour, Mannah Deeb pointed out that the shortage of the substance sometimes leads to an increase in the price of the bundle of bread to reach 200 Syrian Pounds. A similar case was recorded in the city of Azaz two weeks ago. Yet, such problems are usually temporary and are resolved quickly.
Abdullah Al-Naif, from the media office of Akhtareen’s Local Council in the northern countryside of Aleppo, stressed that the provision of flour is made mainly through Turkey, and especially “IFAD” organization.
As for securing fuels and the sum of materials used in manufacturing bread (yeast, salt and fuel), Al-Naif clarified that all of these are secured through traders in the region, while some organizations pay occasionally for the operating expenses, including fuel, yeast and others.
However, there is a third source of raw materials in Idlib and bakeries purchase them from the local market, according to the general manager of the bakeries of Idlib, Jericho and Muhambal, the engineer Sobhi Mardikhi. He confirmed also that the raw materials in the bakeries of Idleb and Muhambal come from the local market, whereas the bakery in Jericho is sponsored by “Big Heart Foundation” by means of a monthly contract which provides half the quantity of flour and half the quantity of yeast.
Mr. Mardikhi clarified that, concerning the “Turkish flour subsidy” in Idlib, the subsidies coming from “IFAD” are received once every three or five months. But currently, the aid has been blocked since eight months approximately. Nonetheless, the endorsement lasts only one week and this reduces the price of the bread bundle to 100 Syrian Pounds.
“In the city of Idlib, we have worked with ‘IFAD’ on only four projects during two years, and as such we can no longer depend on it,” explained Mardikhi.
The Price of the Bundle of Bread is Determined by the Subsidy
The determination of the bundle price is tightly linked to the provision of flour and with the subsidy provided by local organizations and councils.
Al-Naif said in an interview with Enab Baladi that “one bundle of bread weighs 1150 grams, and it was agreed with all the bakeries in the region on a flat rate of 75 Syrian Pounds per bundle for the citizen in case the owner of the bakery received free or subsidized flour, but the price remains adjustable according to the costs of production.
While the price of the bundle of bread weighing 850 grams is 150 Syrian Pounds in the bakeries of Idlib and Muhambal, in the Jericho’s bakeries, in case of the presence of subsidy, the bundle of bread that weights 1.200 grams costs 125 Syrian Pounds, according to Mardikhi. He adds “the way a bundle of bread is priced depends only on securing the costs of its production, without consideration of profit or loss, the workers’ salaries in addition to a minor amount of money for maintenance.”
Al-Naif pointed out that the distribution of the bakeries’ shares of flour is made in accordance with the production capacity of the bakery and the number of villages and citizens who benefit from such production.
As for the proportions of flour allocated to the bakeries of Idlib, they are determined by the general administration for bakeries and directly related to prices. If the price of the bundle of bread is cheap, the provisions become larger, but if the price of the bundle is high the provisions shrink, except for the bakery of Jericho which is constantly subsidized.
Monitoring and Inspecting Bakeries
As a result of the proliferation of private and public bakeries, it was necessary to monitor and follow up the production of each one of them. Indeed, different measures are taken to punish the responsibles in case the weight of the bundle or the quality of the loaf is manipulated or the flour is monopolized.
Actually, Akhtareen’s Local Council supervises the public and private bakeries in the city, according to Al-Naif. He confirmed also that in case the rules are violated, the owner of the bakery becomes legally accountable before the council, the executive authorities: “the (free) civil police,” and the court. Once the conventional price and weight are violated, legal measures are taken against the owner of the bakery and he is brought to court.
Similarly, in the city of Idlib the same procedures are followed as Mardikhi pointed out that there are patrols that monitor the markets and the bakeries. The authorities address three warnings to the bakery in case of violation, but if the warnings were not taken seriously the security body handles the situation directly. Mardikhi noted that there were several cases of weight and price manipulations, but the owners of the bakeries abided by the law after the first warning.
The Private Bakeries are Competing with Public Ones
As a result of the increasing number of population, some investors have established private bakeries, relying on the purchase of flour from the black market in the beginning at a high price, reaching 150 Pounds per kilo. As such, the high price forces them to sell the bundle of bread for 200 Syrian Pounds and sometimes for 250 Syrian Pounds.
“Abu Omar,” the owner of Al- Shehabi private bakery in the city of Al-Bab, who started working a month ago, told Enab Baladi that the Civil Council allocated to the bakery three tons of flour daily at a subsidized price of 65 Syrian Pounds. As such, the Council fixed the price of a single bundle at 100 Syrian Pounds, while the owner provides operating materials such as yeast and salt in addition to the fuel, at 46 Syrian Pounds per liter.
“Abu Omar” has confirmed also that the bakery is subject to supervision by the Council through a committee that monitors all the bakeries by checking the weight of the bundle and the quality of the loaf of bread. Abdullah Al-Naif, from the media office of Akhtareen’s Local Council in the northern countryside of Aleppo, confirmed that the private bakeries are registered and supervised by a special committee (Control and Supply Committee) of the Relief Office.
In effect, according to Mardikhi, the owners of the private bakeries in Idlib rely heavily on the purchase of raw materials from the local market, which makes it necessary to sell a single bundle of bread at the price of 200 Syrian Pounds with a margin of profit.
The Delegates are Under Supervision
Despite the spread of bakeries, some villages in the countryside purchase bread through the delegates who collect “family records” of a particular region and present them to the Committee for the Restoration of Stability in north Aleppo in order to get a specific number of bread bundles according to the number of citizens.
“Abu Omar” confirmed that the committee allows the delegate to buy the single bundle of bread for 90 Syrian Pounds from the bakery and sell it to the citizen for 100 Syrian pounds, in addition to specifying the bakery from which each delegate purchases the quantity. Abu Omar called for standardizing the authorized amount for the delegates, as the delegate can buy 400 bundles from one bakery and none from the other.
Accordingly, the delegate is also subjected to the supervision and inspection since some of them tend to raise the price of the bundle of bread. The delegate can also make an agreement with the owner of the bakery to reduce the weight of the loaf, and then sells it to the citizens for 80 Syrian Pounds, which is profitable for the bakery owner and the delegate at the same time.
The information officer in the Committee for the Restoration of Stability in the countryside of Aleppo, Mannah Deeb, confirmed that the inhabitants of the target village or area are the ones who select their delegate along with a prefixed margin of profit for each bundle. Hence, once a violation of such profit margin is recorded or in case of other complaints, the delegate is replaced and put on trial.
Seven Associations to Support the Syrian Bakeries
In an attempt to secure bread for the citizens, as a strategic substance in Syria, a number of relief associations organized many campaigns which aim at decreasing the prices of bread and distributing it for free to the needy.
The Ataa Association, which is considered as a civil society organization providing relief services for the Syrian people, has started with six other associations the project “for the support of the Syrian bakeries” in order to provide bread for a numbers of citizens.
The coordinator of development projects in the Ataa association, Hussam Shammaa, asserted that the project is concerned with providing the Syrian bakeries with flour. The Kuwaiti International Islamic Charitable Organization sponsored the seven associations and provided a thousand tons of flour per month during six months, which can be renewed for one additional year.
According to Shammaa, the seven associations are: Ataa Association for Relief and Development, Al Wafaa Association, White Hands Charity, Ahl Al- Hadeeth Association, Sham Al- Khair Association, Al- Huda Charity Organization and Saed Charity Association.
The Ataa Association for Relief and Development oversees the implementation of the project in terms of receiving the flour and distributing it to other associations. It also monitors the quality of the bread, making sure that the bundle is purchased by the beneficiary for 75 Syrian Pounds only, in addition to ensuring that the weight of the bundle is no less than 900 grams.
Hussam Shammaa confirmed that the areas of the implementation of the project are distributed in the city of Azaz in the countryside of Aleppo, which includes one bakery. Hama countryside also contains two bakeries and the rest of the bakeries are located in Idlib and its countryside.
The bread is distributed to needy families following vouchers and lists which are distributed on a daily and monthly basis. Each family is provided with one or two bundles, taking into consideration the number of the family members, after a study of the targeted families conducted by the bakery owners.
The project was welcomed by the citizens in particular who used to buy the bundle of bread for 200 Syrian Pounds. The head of the Local Council of Al-Dana, Mahmoud Hussein al-Najjar, said in his interview with Enab Baladi that “the bread project is considered as a great service for the community. It made an echo in the social milieu in which it was implemented, and left a positive impact on the living conditions of the citizens, whether locals or migrants.”