Qamishli: Unsubsidized bread price increases for third time
Enab Baladi – Majd al-Salem
The price of unsubsidized bread, known as “touristic” in the northeastern city of Qamishli, increased from 2,000 to 2,500 Syrian pounds without an official decision, in a second increase in three months, and the third in six months.
The high price has placed a financial burden on the people of the city, most of whose residents depend on “tourist” unsubsidized bread due to the poor quality of the bread produced in the public bakeries run by the Syrian regime and the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).
On March 18, the bakeries raised the price of a package of tourist bread, consisting of seven loaves weighing 600 grams, from 2,000 to 2,500 Syrian pounds, without an official decision to raise the price by the Autonomous Administration.
On the same day, Benkin Ahmed, the official of the Supply and Consumer Protection Division in Qamishli of the Autonomous Administration, told a local radio station that the decision “was officially issued after demands from the owners of the tourist bread bakeries.”
Khaled al-Jamil, 40, of Qamishli, told Enab Baladi that the high price of a bundle of “tourist” bread would negatively affect his life and the life of his family and increase the financial burden on them, especially in light of the difficult economic conditions that the region suffers from.
Al-Jamil explained that although he has a card for subsidized bread, he is forced almost daily to buy “tourist” bread “because of insufficient provisions” for him and his family of five, which means that he needs about 65,000 Syrian pounds for bread only, per month.
He added, “I work in the private sector, and my salary is not enough to secure my family’s basic needs, and the high price of bread will make it difficult for us to provide all our needs.”
The owner of a food store in Qamishli, who asked not to be named, told Enab Baladi that the deterioration of the value of the Syrian pound and the rise in the costs of bread production pushed bakeries to raise prices.
He pointed out that the profit margin on selling “touristic” bread is 100 Syrian pounds for each bundle for the shopkeepers, so he stopped selling bread in his shop with its high price because it is a “tiring and fruitless” process.
In December 2022, the Autonomous Administration raised the price of a bundle of bread by 500 pounds, and justified the decision by the high exchange rate of the dollar, and set the weight of a bundle of bread at 600 grams, equal to seven loaves, preceded by raising the price in September of the same year.
The exchange rate of one dollar against the Syrian pound is 7,425 pounds, according to the Syrian Pound Today website, which specializes in monitoring the currency exchange rate.
Subsidized bread not available
There are two main bakeries in Qamishli city. The regime-run al-Baath Bakery, where the 1100-gram bread bundle is sold at a subsidized price. Each family gets two bundles under a special card at a price of 500 Syrian pounds per bundle.
However, “corruption” prevents families from obtaining their allowances, which are “insufficient in the first place,” local residents say.
According to what Enab Baladi monitored, the bread is sold after being smuggled near the “automatic” bakery on several stalls for about 3,000 Syrian pounds (at an increase of six times the subsidized price).
Most of the bakery’s production is taken by the regime to its military and security branches, forcing the residents to buy it from the black market and not to stand in line for long hours in front of the bakery.
The second bakery that provides subsidized bread is the Tishreen Bakery (the eastern bakery), which is controlled by the Autonomous Administration. Bread is distributed to kiosks supervised by the “communes” of AANES at the rate of one bundle of bread containing nine loaves for each family at the price of 500 pounds, every two days under special cards.
Abd al-Salam al-Hussein, 30, from Qamishli, told Enab Baladi that the mechanism of distributing bread through stalls solved the problem of overcrowding in front of the bakeries, but as a result of the insufficient allocated quantities and irregular distribution times, many families are forced to buy bread from vendors at the price of 2,500 or 3,000 pounds or buy “touristic” bread at the price of 2,500 Syrian pounds.
On February 22, Fares Mohammad Taha, from the Qamishli Bakery Department, told Ronahi newspaper, which is close to the Autonomous Administration, that they used to distribute bread every three days, but now the distribution process has improved.
Taha added that the distribution has become on a daily basis, as the distribution starts from the western neighborhoods all the way to the eastern and some villages of the city.
As for the quantity of bread, Taha said that it is determined on the basis of the amount of flour that enters the bakery, which is determined by the mill and estimated at 25 tons on a daily basis.
He pointed out that increasing the percentage of flour for the bakery to an estimated five tons covers the shortage in bread distribution.
In addition to regular and “tourist” bakeries, there are stone bakeries that sell one loaf of bread at a price ranging between 1,000 and 1,500 Syrian pounds. It is one of the most expensive types of bread, and it maintains its quality for a long time, but it is not suitable for families who need large quantities of bread daily.
Dozens of Qamishli countryside residents come to the city every day to buy bread since there are only a few bakeries in rural areas.
Khalil al-Salmo, 46, told Enab Baladi that he buys bread for his family and his brother’s family for about 10,000 Syrian pounds per day, in addition to the road fare costs of about 4000 pounds.
Al-Salmo added that he tried to buy flour to make Saj (traditional) bread and dispense with public and private bakeries, but a 50-kilogram bag of flour costs about 180,000 Syrian pounds.
The unemployed al-Salmo says that he is unable to buy flour because his main income is agriculture, which has suffered from drought during the past two years.
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