Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad is using Twitter to take people’s opinions on using Lebanon’s surplus of potatoes as a supplement for traditional wheat bread.
“I read the news that there are tons of potatoes that have no disposal and there’s a fear of crop damage,” Abdel Samad tweeted on Saturday.
The minister explained that “there are countries that use potato flour with wheat flour to produce bread that has a high nutritional value,” and asked people to vote on whether they support the idea of utilizing the excess potato crop for this purpose.
“Do you support a proposal to the Cabinet to have the state intervene to buy the crop and convert it to flour to add it to wheat flour?” she asked, noting that this would reduce imports, save U.S. dollar reserves, and provide self-sufficiency.
Unsurprisingly, the overwhelming majority (84%) of the 7,000+ voters who have participated in the poll so far voted “Yes.” The social media poll still has, at the time of writing, 20 hours before it ends.
Many commenters pointed out that the idea is in place and provides a reasonable solution for at least one of the multitude of crises battering Lebanon; the arising bread crisis.
“I live in Europe and, from time to time, I buy bread made from potatoes and it tastes very good. The idea is excellent, especially in these circumstances,” a Twitter user said.
The potato problem
The potato surplus problem that Minister Abdel Samad mentioned is a serious one that is threatening more than half of this year’s potato produce.
With potatoes being among Lebanon’s most exported vegetables in the Summer, potato farmers have been hit hard by the ongoing dollar crisis.
This season, farmers have seen a sharp drop in sales due to the fact that exporters have not been able to buy their products because of the shortage of foreign currency.
On the other hand, Lebanon imported tons of potatoes from Egypt this year, as prompted by the Minister of Agriculture and Culture, who said that the quantities of potatoes that recently entered Lebanon “were not sufficient, given the large demand in the markets for them.”
As a result, tons of potatoes are currently stored in warehouses, indefinitely, with no apparent solution to prevent them from spoiling.
The minister’s suggestion is certainly a welcome one that, if adopted and implemented properly and in time, can provide some breathing space for the Lebanese, who are choking under the collapsing economy.
The suggestion coincided with the panic and long queues that accompanied the announcement that bakeries across Lebanon have stopped distributing bread to stores and supermarkets.