High prices cast a shadow over the Ramadan table in these Arab countries

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Delicious cheap fried potatoes (fries) were a staple on the Lebanese table Mona Al-Amsha in the past years, but with Sunflower oil prices rise due to Russian attack on Ukraine She is afraid that even potatoes will not be within reach during the month of Ramadan.

“In 2021, when prices were really high, I used the same oil to cook several dishes. Now I can’t even do that anymore,” said Mona, who lived with her three children in a poor neighborhood in Beirut. In Lebanon, the impact of higher prices for wheat, edible oil and fuel will be deeper during Ramadan, according to the World Food Program (WFP), after a deep economic crisis caused prices to rise 11 times since 2019.

Many meals require large amounts of oil, which has become too expensive for many in Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa that depend heavily on food imports.

Ukraine and Russia provide more than 80% of global sunflower oil exports, and its prices jumped 64% in one week at the end of March.

Last month, when the Russian attack on Ukraine began, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said its vegetable oil index jumped 8.5%, to a record level.

In Lebanon, the price of a bottle of sunflower oil has increased by about ten times what it was three years ago. In view of the scarcity of imports, the stores specified one bottle for each buyer.

“I can’t even make a plate of french fries for my kids,” Mona Al-Amsha told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Fasting without breakfast

High prices severely affect refugees and other affected groups in the region.

According to the World Food Program, nearly 90% of the 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon are already living in extreme poverty and dependent on food aid.

He is also concerned about the Syrian refugees in Egypt, who number about 130,000, amid a population of more than 100 million people. Egypt is usually the world’s largest importer of wheat, and has been hit by a sharp rise in global wheat prices due to the war in Ukraine.

“We will not hold out,” said 47-year-old Syrian refugee Maysa Mohammed, adding that she fears that prices will continue to rise if the war drags on.

High food prices also affect charities, which usually ramp up assistance to poor families during Ramadan.

“Because of the high prices, the contents of the Ramadan bag, which includes oil, rice, pasta and other food products that cover people’s needs throughout the month, are less in quantity,” said Hosna Medhat, an Egyptian volunteer in the field of charitable aid. She added that the cost of a Ramadan bag costs any charity now 250 pounds, after it was 150 last year.

The number of donors is also likely to decrease due to the 15% devaluation of the local currency, in the few weeks leading up to Ramadan.

In Lebanon, charities are already under pressure.

“The demand is much greater than what we have,” said Rasha Baydoun, who heads the “Make Difference” charity that distributes basic commodities to poor families in Lebanon.

She added that families who were once able to buy affordable edible oil are now asking for it to be added to food grants, but their association is finding it difficult to provide adequate supplies.

“In Ramadan… some families will fast without breaking the fast,” she said. “They have nothing to eat… neither after sunset nor before it.”





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