90% of northern Hama’s bakeries out of service amidst regime bombing and high prices
“The regime doesn’t have to impose a siege on your town to stop you from eating and drinking: it can just target bakeries and public utilities to ensure the same results.” This haunting phrase is especially true for the northern Hama countryside, where people struggle to get bread, their most basic foodstuff, as 90% of the local bakeries no longer operate.
The regime has imposed siege-like conditions on many towns and cities, using starvation as a weapon. As for other areas not encircled, it takes the bakeries the towns rely on for their bread supply out of service by bombing them. This is what has happened in the northern Hama countryside where the vast majority of bakeries lay in ruin and flour has been cut off. On top of this, the regime does not allow bread to be shipped out of areas under its control.
According to one of the Local Councils in the area, there are 100 bakeries in the northern Hama countryside, 90% of which no longer operate because they have been bombed or because they cannot afford to continue running given rising prices.
Naturally, this has lead to a bread shortage, putting pressure on the Local Councils and humanitarian organizations operating in the region to help provide alternatives. This is difficult given the going price for bread locally, which has gotten up to SP125 for a 750 gram brag of bread.
More than 75% of the bakeries in the region use imported flower as there is not enough available locally.
However, according to Abdullah Ahmed, the coordinator for an aid organization in the Free Hama Provincial Council, “using imported flour affects the price of bread as the price of the dollar fluctuates daily.”
Sayyed Ishaq told the Syrian Voice that “the councils have presented three plans to provide supplies for bakeries in the region, but the civilians will see differences in prices between the different bakeries depending on how the Council chooses to support them. Some bakeries get flour, while others get money for their operational costs.”
The lack of a supervising authority or a body to regulate the price of bread in private bakeries means that consumers are open to exploitation, which has led them to request a revolutionary council to intervene in setting the price of bread and other commodities. However, the Council sets the prices for the bakeries it supports.
Mahmoud Hussein, the director of a bakery in northern Hama, told the Syrian Voice that “the bakery that I work at stopped operating because of the increasing prices and and the scarcity of spare parts, as well as the lack of support,” adding that “the lack of support means we have to sell bread at higher prices than bakeries support by aid organizations or the council which don’t have to consider profits or losses.”
Zaher, the owner of a private bakery, said that “we produce bread daily for opposition areas, but the price of materials means that the price of bread goes up while the amount you get goes down. We as a private bakery get our ingredients from the market, we don’t have anyone supporting us.”
In asking civilians about the issue, the Syrian Voice was told by Osama Alous that “there are days when the bakeries in are area don’t produce any bread, and so we have to travel significant distances just to get one bag.”
Saed al-Najar said that there are issues with the quality of the bread as well.
“Sometimes the bread is low quality, crumbly or not fresh. Sometimes we resort to buying it from travelling merchants for about SP100 SP more than its normal price.”
There are approximately 250,000 residents in the villages and towns of al-Latamana, Kafr Zayata, Qala al-Madayq, and Sahal al-Ghab, and more than 75 percent don’t have any employment, so they rely on humanitarian aid. The rest work for a monthly salary ranging between $100 to $400, depending on the job and the hours. According to statistics recently published, 80 percent of civilians living in areas outside of regime control live under the poverty line.