Shoppers recently visiting a Lebanese market may feel that they are in a country other than Lebanon. The global goods, which the consumer is accustomed to, are missing from most of the shelves, and if any, their prices are now four times higher because the dollar exchange rate has risen dramatically in the past months.
The missing products have been replaced by cheaper alternatives, “albeit of lesser quality, with the majority being imported from Turkey, Egypt and Syria,” according to the Director General of the Ministry of Economy, Mohammed Abu Haidar.
Ghada Younes, 34, said that her life turned upside down about a year ago. She told Asharq Al-Awsat that items that she had long considered essential were now missing, such as the coffee that she usually drank, and the foods her children were accustomed to.
“It is true that there are a lot of alternatives on the shelves, but they are not of the same quality. I know we will have to get used to the new products, but that will not be easy, and we will suffer greatly with the children,” she noted.
A large number of international companies withdrew from the Lebanese market successively over the past months, after the volume of their sales declined dramatically, as they were forced to raise commodity prices in line with the high US exchange rate.
Lebanon imports more than 80 percent of its food needs, according to Abu Haidar.
In recent days, the exchange rate of the US dollar in the market crossed the threshold of LBP 8,500 while the official exchange rate is still fixed at LBP 1,500.
Abu Haidar noted that the majority of consumers were no longer looking for excellent quality, but rather for less expensive goods.
The head of supermarket owners, Nabil Fahed, said that the Lebanese must adapt to a new way of life, as many varieties have gradually disappeared and are being replaced by local products and others imported from countries, such as Turkey and Egypt.
In remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said that national industries were able in a short time to alleviate the severity of the crisis, but their continuity depended on the state’s continued support of the imported raw materials.