Residents Of Homs Countryside Buying Loaf Of bread At Free Price
Although more than a year and a half passed since the Syrian regime forces took control of the northern countryside of Homs, under a Russian-sponsored “reconciliation” agreement, services provided by state institutions are still at their lowest level and with no noticeable progress.
The access to the loaf of bread and its quality had always been a challenge during the control of the Syrian opposition, against the backdrop of the bombing of the automatic bakery in the city of al-Rastan and other bakeries. This problem has nevertheless resurfaced now, but under different circumstances, despite the promises the “reconciliation committee” has made to provide bread at the worst situations and reduce the merchants’ manipulation of the basic material needed by citizens.
The current conditions have imposed their consequences on the produced bread, which has become unsuitable for human consumption, and produced by al-Rastan bakery, the only one that feeds the region (the only state-subsidized bakery). This has paved the way towards resorting to private bakeries in the region, whose owners took advantage of the situation and started selling bread at random prices.
Unfit for human consumption
Bread arrives at approved distribution centers in the northern countryside of Homs every two days. Two bundles of bread are allocated for each family, at the price of 50 Syrian liras per bundle. However, this bread is already not suitable for consumption since arriving from the bakery that feeds the region in al-Rastan, which Ihsan Relief and Development institution had established during the opposition factions’ control over the region.
Although the “Bakeries Institution” in the Syrian government has taken the responsibility of operating al-Rastan bakery since the regime forces’ entry to the region, the produced bread is of poor quality, as monitored by Enab Baladi.
“Bread becomes acidified the moment it leaves the bakery and arrives at the distribution center because it is randomly stacked for hours, and thus purchasing it becomes immediately prevented. Despite complaints through the city council and the municipality, no procedures were taken” said Abu Mohammad, a resident of the city of al-Rastan.
One of the owners of distribution centers in Homs countryside, who preferred to remain anonymous, explained that the bread coming from al-Rastan bakery is rotten because the yeast or flour already reached the expiry date.
“This has been the case for more than eight months. Poor people are forced to buy it, but the wealthy have to buy it from private bakeries.”
Bakeries taking advantage of the situation
In light of the poor quality of the bread produced by the only government-owned bakery in al-Rastan, the private bakeries were recovering after a long pause, due to the difficulty of obtaining approvals to compete. Running a private bakery needs the approval of the Office of National Security in Damascus.
Abu Khaldoun, owner of a private bakery in Talbiseh, said: “After diligent efforts, I managed to acquire the necessary approvals of supply and health departments and even national security to run the bakery. I had to pay a bribe of about two million liras in order to hasten the process of obtaining approvals.”
The price of unsubsidized bread, which private bakeries are offering, ranges from 75 to 125 liras per bundle (8 loaves), depending on the prices of oil and flour.
Abu Khaldoun said that the price of the bundle varies according to the price of a liter of diesel and a bag of flour. Mills and gas stations are not providing the required quantity at the right time, in addition to the high prices of labor force.
The owner of the bakery believes that despite the high price of the bundle, “demand is still high because of the poor bread quality offered by the only government-owned bakery in the city of al-Rastan.”
Abu Kamel, one of the locals at al-Farhaniyah village, said he stopped buying bread from the government-owned al-Rastan bakery because of the poor quality of bread.
He told Enab Baladi that he is currently forced to buy bread from the private bakeries, and pay the unsubsidized price they are requiring whether from the countryside of Homs or Hama.
City councils and municipalities have been complaining about al-Rastan bakery to supply authorities, the governorate, and other interested parties, but “there is no looming solution, or perhaps the issue is intentional,” as many residents in the region say.