The World Bank (WB) approved a $150 million emergency loan for food security to support wheat imports to Lebanon and provide stability of bread prices during the coming nine months, a Lebanese minister announced on Monday.
Economy and Trade Minister Amin Salam said in a press conference that he had received the official approval of the bank's board of directors for an emergency loan to finance immediate wheat imports to Lebanon to avoid supply disruption and secure bread for households.
“We have been working with the World Bank for nearly a month on an agreement for a $150 million loan to Lebanon to create a kind of stability by providing bread bundles at subsidized prices,” Salam said.
He revealed that the Banque du Liban is not capable of funding subsidies on wheat because its foreign currency reserves dropped to critical levels.
The Minister said that following the Russian-Ukrainian war, Lebanon became more concerned about its imports of wheat, and that the World Bank has swiftly worked with the Ministry in that regard for Lebanon to get the soft loan.
“The World Bank’s head of the board of directors told me that Lebanon is the first country to receive an emergency loan for its food security,” Salam revealed.
The program, known as the Lebanon Wheat Supply Emergency Response Project, still needs approval by the country's cabinet and parliament, said the minister.
Lebanon is heavily reliant on food imports and pays for them in dollars, which have become increasingly difficult to obtain since its economy crashed in 2019.
Since then, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90% of its value while food prices have gone up more than 11-fold, according to the World Food Program.
The bread shortage has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, which supplies most of Lebanon’s wheat, and by Beirut's inability to store wheat reserves since its largest silos were destroyed in the 2020 Beirut port explosion.