Latakia: Economic crisis deprives the children of ice cream
Latakia – Linda Ali
The 34-year-old Wafa tries to turn her two children away from the ice cream shops in the coastal city of Latakia when she takes them to the market or for a walk in the streets. “The prices are high,” Wafa says.
One ice cream ball reached 4,000 Syrian pounds, and the price of a wrapped piece reached 25,000 pounds.
Despite the end of the extremely hot month of August, many families complain that the summer has passed without buying ice cream except for a few times that are almost counted on the fingers, to add ice cream to the list of items that are absent from the majority of Syrians after buying it has turned into a great luxury.
Wafaa said that at the beginning of summer, she bought ice cream for her two children, and the price of a ball at that time was 2,000 pounds, or 6,000 pounds for one cone, while she refrained from eating it, not because she did not want it, but to save the price.
“They are deprived of everything. We no longer dare to think about buying a shawarma sandwich. We eat ice cream once in the summer,” Wafaa added.
($1=13,750 SYP) according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar.
Last year, the price of ice cream reached 20,000 pounds per kilo and reached 50,000 pounds at the beginning of this summer, and rose again a month ago to 60,000 pounds.
After the price of a liter of diesel fuel increased in mid-August, the price per kilo reached 80,000 Syrian pounds (about $6), and the price of one kilo of some types reached approximately 150,000 pounds, with prices varying from one region to another and from one shop to another.
One ice cream ball equals 4,000 pounds
Jaafar, 28, a daily worker who distributes biscuits and chips to shops, said that he is an ice cream addict and that no responsibilities prevent him from eating it, so he does not stop buying it throughout the summer and winter, but what bothers him is that it is almost impossible to buy it at the same price. There is always a new hike in the prices.
He added, “At the beginning of the summer, I used to buy a piece of Arabic ice cream for 12,000 pounds. After less than a month, it became 15,000 pounds, and after raising the price of diesel, it became 20,000 pounds, and maybe tomorrow it will be 25,000, who knows?”
Afaf, 42, does not dare to take her three children for any outing outside their neighborhood near Besnada Square on the outskirts of Latakia.
Afaf said that she goes out with her children from the house to the nearby streets and gardens, and what she fears most is that they will see an ice cream seller.
A simple calculation made by the woman saying, “If I buy each one of them an ice cream cone, I will pay 18,000 pounds.”
She added that children cannot be aware of the economic hardships and are not convinced of depriving themselves like adults, and she does not have the means to feed them ice cream.
Afaf complained that she had to make a choice between desires, as the price of a ball of ice cream buys approximately a kilo of beans or tomatoes, with which she can prepare lunch, expressing her heartbreak at depriving the children of ice cream.
As a result of the electrical rationing of up to four and a half hours of cutting in exchange for half an hour of connection, which is not enough time to store ice cream, shop owners are forced to rely on private ampere generators, whose owners have increased their fees by about 75% after the recent increase in the price of diesel.
Latakia countryside deprived of ice cream
Since 2021, ice cream has been absent from the majority of Latakia countryside as a result of the absence of electricity and its harsh rationing, and the absence of ampere operators in it.
However, at the beginning of this summer, some ice cream companies resorted to giving some shopkeepers in the countryside enough solar panels to turn on the refrigerator, so the ice cream has returned to the markets.
Saleh, 52, who owns a grocery store in the Latakia suburbs, said that some companies used to give refrigerators for ice cream in the past, but this year, they gave him a solar panel sufficient to operate the refrigerator, provided that the company takes it back as soon as the summer season ends.
He added, “Ice cream in the countryside is a cheap variety, and the price ranges between 1,500 and 4,500 pounds per piece, but about a month and a half ago, the price rose to between 2,200 and 6,000 pounds.”
The situation in the remote countryside is not like that, as there are elderly and children who have not tasted ice cream for more than three years, so they cannot reach the city, and there are no shops selling ice cream in their area, as in the remote countryside of Qardaha city, according to Adnan, 45, (a pseudonym), who works as a driver on the Latakia-Qardaha road.
High prices of raw materials
Haitham Jaara, deputy head of the ice cream association in Latakia, attributed the reasons for its high price to the high price of the raw materials needed for its manufacture, such as sugar, milk, and fruits, in addition to plastic containers, transportation fees, and labor.
In his statements to the state-run al-Wehda newspaper, Jaara warned against the presence of what he described as “intruders” to the profession, who use Aspartame, the artificial chemical sweetener, as a substitute for sugar, which is very dangerous to health and may cause cancer.
Jaara said in other statements to the local Sham FM radio that the demand for ice cream is very weak compared to the increased demand for buying ice cubes.
In turn, Bassam Qalaji, the head of the Craft Association for Sweets in Damascus, attacked the Ministry of Electricity and said in statements to the local Athr Press website that many workshops stopped making ice cream due to the heat wave and electrical rationing, adding that the percentage of losses in the ice cream sector exceeded 80% in 2023.
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