Syria’s bread prices consume employees’ salaries and add new burdens on students
Latakia – Linda Ali
The Syrian regime’s Ministry of Internal Trade and Consumer Protection raised the subsidized price of the seven-loaf bread bundle from 1,250 Syrian pounds to 3,000 Syrian pounds, on November 6.
The decision increased the burden on the holders of the government subsidy card, locally known as the “Smart Card,” and on those not covered by government subsidies, such as some students and those who live far from their families with the intention of working.
In Syria, there are two kinds of bread. The first is subsidized at a price of 200 pounds per bundle of seven loaves, and its price remains the same.
The second is non-subsidized bread, which is priced at 1,250 pounds and is always sold for 1,300 pounds because the bakery owners do not have a 50-pound banknote. The price of one bundle (seven loaves) became 3,000 pounds, according to the decision.
Bread rationing began at the end of 2021 when the Ministry of Internal Trade set the daily allotment for individuals at two and a half loaves of bread per day per person.
Bread allocations are not enough for the majority of families who buy additional bread at free market price amid a deteriorating economic and living reality, as the minimum salaries for workers in the public sector are about 186,000 pounds (about $13.4).
The US dollar is trading at 13,950 SYP according to the S-P Today website, which covers the trading rate of the Syrian pound to the dollar. At the start of the conflict in 2011, the dollar was trading at 47 pounds.
A chronic concern
The increase in the price of bread shocked the 21-year-old Haya, who studies at the faculty of civil engineering at Tishreen University in Latakia. She lives in a rented house with two students, who will suffer as much as she does as a result of such a decision.
Haya, of Baniyas region, said that the subsidy lifting decision will cost her more than 60,000 Syrian pounds per month, as they need at least two bundles of bread a day for 6,000 pounds.
She added that students who live in the university dormitory buy the 7-loaf bundle at a price of 500 pounds, but since she did not obtain housing within the university dormitory, she cannot buy bread at this price because the dates of the bread’s arrival are not fixed. She also cannot arrive early before the bread runs out, which is usually distributed to students in small quantities.
The student mentioned that she once tried to buy bread while she was with one of her friends at the university dormitory, but the distributor told her that the sale was exclusively through the university dormitory card, which she did not have.
Once, she bought bread at the same price without a card. The matter was essentially subject to the mood of the distributor, Haya added.
For his part, Akram, 41, is excluded from the government subsidy because he is a lawyer. He called on his syndicate to take action and defend the lawyers, as he gets bread at the unsubsidized price, and it used to cost him 112,000 pounds per month. Today, with the price increase, the monthly cost of bread for his family has become 270,000 pounds.
“It is not reasonable to pay 270,000 pounds a month for bread. Those who canceled government support believe that the lawyer makes a fortune every month, but we work hard to eat and live, not to mention the difficulties of securing gas, bread, heating diesel, and gasoline,” the lawyer said.
The decision to raise the price of bread also causes great burdens for all residents far from their families, such as rural residents who live and work on the outskirts of the city of Latakia due to the transportation crisis and high fares.
Riham, 32, a private sector worker, said that there is no government subsidy card for single people, and she usually buys unsubsidized bread because there is no other way.
The young woman, who lives with another woman in a rented room in the Tishreen suburb of the city, added that her salary barely covers the house rent and the price of food, and with the rise in the price of bread, she will have to pay more money.
The majority of their food depends on bread, and Riham and her university student roommate resort to sandwiches as an alternative to cooking in the absence of gas and the inability to buy it at the unsubsidized price of approximately 150,000 pounds per cylinder.
In turn, Ayham, 46, who left his family in Latakia and lives in a rented room in the capital, Damascus, with the intention of working, considered that the decision is unfair to them as a group that works day and night and stays away from its family in order to secure food in light of the current conditions.
Ayham said that he traveled to Damascus two years ago as a result of the lack of job opportunities in Latakia. He lives in the Bab Touma neighborhood in the Old City of Damascus in a room he shares with another young man, and like most single people, he relies on snacks and traditional meals that require bread.
He stated that they need at least a bundle and a half daily at a price of 4,500 Syrian pounds at the new price, which contributes to increasing the financial burdens. He pointed out sarcastically that the ideal solution is to follow a severe diet that relies on water only, as it is the cheapest available option in Syria, at least until today.
According to UN statistics, Syria is among the six countries that suffer from the highest rates of food insecurity in the world, as there are 12.1 million people in Syria, or more than half of the population, who suffer from food insecurity, and more than 90% of the population lives below the poverty line.
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