Beirut’s massive ammonium nitrate explosion leveled Lebanon’s main grain storage silos, leaving the country with less than a month’s worth of reserves, according to officials.
The silos destroyed in the deadly Tuesday explosion contained about 15,000 tonnes of grain at the time, Lebanese economy minister Raoul Nehme told Reuters — far less than its maximum capacity of 120,000.
Nehme puts the country’s remaining grain reserves at enough to last “a bit less than a month,” with at least a three-month standing supply needed to maintain food security.
But the minister insisted that famine was not an immediate worry.
“There is no bread or flour crisis,” said Nehme. “We have enough inventory and boats on their way to cover the needs of Lebanon on the long term.”
But leading importer Hani Bohsali painted a far grimmer picture.
“We fear there will be a huge supply chain problem, unless there is an international consensus to save us,” Bohsali said.
Most other food at the port, which handles over half of Lebanon’s imports, was also ruined, Bob Jabra, a partner at commodity trader Ibrahim Jabra & Sons, told Bloomberg.
His company lost 250 tons of rice.
Lebanon was already battling both the coronavirus pandemic and a crippling economic downturn before Tuesday’s explosion killed at least 100 people, wounded nearly 4,000 and left some 300,000 homeless.
The blast is believed to have emanated from a 2,750 ton cache of ammonium nitrate — commonly used as a fertilizer — left to sit in a port warehouse for some six years after it was confiscated from a Russian businessman, according to officials and reports.