Over the weekend, images circulated on social media showing that subsidized products from Lebanon were found on shelves in other countries, namely Picon cheese in Kuwait, and Najjar coffee in Turkey.
In response to the photos, caretaker Economy and Trade Minister Raoul Nehme tweeted on Friday that he had summoned representatives of the Picon and Najjar companies for an explanation.
“I asked them to provide documents proving that the export of these goods took place on an individual basis, in order to be based on the matter. I will also refer the report to the Financial Public Prosecution,” he wrote.
These products were intended to be sold at a supported price to help struggling families in Lebanon that is experiencing an economic collapse. The crisis in Lebanon is as such that it has just surpassed Zimbabwe for 2nd most hyperinflation in the world.
As for the Picon, Tamer Mamdouh, the head of Lama Food Store in Kuwait that was selling the subsidized cheese, told Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Rai just how the product ended up in his store.
Mamdouh noted that the store is keen on meeting the needs of its customers, the majority of which are Lebanese.
According to him, to meet the high demand for products from Lebanon, the store’s management resorts to buying products from Lebanese grocery stores.
However, Mamdouh stated that the management was simply not aware that the Picon was supported by the Ministry of Economy of Lebanon – until it made a huge raucous online.
He stressed that none of the products were smuggled and that they were bought into Kuwait following “legal procedures” and “according to approved official frameworks.”
He added that the store’s only interest is to meet the demands of his customers and not to make a material profit from the items, which turned out to be subsidized.