BEIRUT: Meat came off the menu for Lebanese soldiers on Tuesday as food prices soared amid a continuing economic collapse.
The black market value of the Lebanese pound has plunged to about 8,000 to the US dollar, compared with an official rate of 1,507, sending food prices up by more than 70 percent in six months.
A kilo of lamb now costs 80,000 pounds, up from 30,000 two months ago, and a kilo of beef has increased from 18,000 pounds to more than 50,000. The price of 900 gram of subsidized bread rose on Tuesday from 1,500 pounds to 2,000.
The union of butchers and cattle farmers said more than 60 percent of butcher shops had closed in the past few weeks, and the army has “completely scrapped meat from meals offered to soldiers while they are on duty,” a spokesman said.
With their pounds increasingly worthless, many Lebanese have taken to bartering online to survive. A Facebook group called “Lebanon barters” has attracted 12,000 users in two weeks.
One user, Zeinab, 25, is offering a black evening dress in exchange for milk formula and two packets of nappies for her 11-month-old boy. “I’ve never asked for anything from anyone, so I thought bartering would be better,” she said.
Traders’ association chief Sami Al-Irani told Arab News: “We cannot imagine a situation worse than this. Is there really someone working to tackle this crisis?
“A third of shops, restaurants and hotels have closed, and firing employees has not stopped. The monthly minimum wage has become sufficient for a few days only.
“The financial crisis is reflected in the shortage of bread and fuel. We will soon go back to using candles. Are we living in a country whose government has gone mad?”
Lebanon, which has a sovereign debt equivalent to 170 percent of its GDP, defaulted on its debt in March for the first time in its history.
The economic crunch has sparked months of unprecedented protests against official corruption and the banking sector.
The union of butchers and cattle farmers addressed authorities Tuesday , saying: “either you release our trapped dollar savings from banks or we will have no choice but to completely close down.”
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