Lebanon to import 35,000 tonnes of wheat from Ukraine, Russia

(Reuters) - Lebanon will receive 35,000 tonnes of wheat from Ukraine and Russia this week, the head of Lebanon’s mills association Ahmad Hoteit told Reuters on Tuesday, in a move that may temporarily ease wheat shortages in the country.

FILE PHOTO: Workers pack freshly baked bread at a bakery in Beirut, Lebanon March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

He said the vessels were sailing from Ukraine’s smaller Danube river ports of Reni and Izmail, and the Russian ports of Rostov-on-Don and Kavkaz.

Shipping data showed the Haje Zeinab bulk carrier was in Izmail on July 8 and has set its destination as Beirut.

The shipments could help alleviate wheat shortages that have left some supermarkets without staple pita bread in recent days.

These shortages have become commonplace in Lebanon’s three-year financial meltdown as the cash-strapped state struggles to afford import subsidies for wheat.

Lebanon imported some 754,000 tons of wheat in 2021, according to customs statistics, averaging roughly 60,000 tonnes of wheat consumption each month.

Lebanon’s economy minister did not respond to requests for comment.

The Ukrainian embassy in Lebanon told Reuters on Friday that Ukraine was resuming wheat exports to Lebanon through Reni.

“We asked our ministry of agriculture in Kiev for Lebanon to get priority as a destination for this wheat. We said, ‘Lebanon has been a friend to us,’ so they gave us the green light,’” the embassy said in a statement.

It said one shipment was already underway via a commercial agreement between a Lebanese importer and a Ukrainian exporter and that further shipments were expected.

The embassy noted Lebanon’s foreign ministry had been the only one in the region to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.

Lebanon used to import about 60% of its wheat from Ukraine, but those shipments have been disrupted by Russia’s invasion and blockade of the main Black Sea ports through which Ukraine once exported.

Reporting by Maya Gebeily; Additional reporting by Timour Azhari; Editing by Susan Fenton