From luxury to a source of livelihood.. Lebanese face the expensive fish

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Until recently, fishing on the Beirut Corniche reflected a hobby that residents of the Lebanese capital, on the Mediterranean, loved, but the economic crisis made this a necessity and a source of livelihood, not a luxury.

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Where the fishermen line up daily at the city beach to catch fish that will become the main dish on their table.

This is in place of meat and chicken, whose price has risen dramatically due to the economic crisis in the country.

Whether they were amateurs or looking for a living, hundreds of heads of families found the sea their daily source of sustenance.

This is in light of the deterioration of living conditions in Lebanon due to the high prices of food commodities, and the increase in poverty and unemployment rates.

The inflation rate in Lebanon reached about 84.3 percent during 2020 and is expected to reach 100 percent this year.

While the unemployment rate is 36.9 percent and is expected to reach 41.4 percent during 2021.

The poverty rate increased during 2020 to 55 percent, while the rate of those suffering from extreme poverty tripled from 8 to 23 percent, according to the report of the United Nations Social and Economic Commission for Western Asia “ESCWA”.

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Stop supporting meat

Meat prices increased sixfold, as a kilogram of beef became about 120,000 liras ($79.2 according to the official price), after it was 20,000 liras ($13.2) before the crisis, while the lamb is about 160,000 liras ($105.6).

The rise in prices is caused by the depreciation of the pound against the dollar. Lebanon imports an average of 25,000 tons of chilled meat and livestock annually, and importers pay for it in dollars.

The government supported the import of meat by securing dollars for traders at an exchange rate of 3900 pounds, at a time when the parallel market exceeded 14,000 pounds, but it recently stopped this support.

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Resorting to the sea

After a survey on the conditions of the “citizens fishermen” in Beirut, where they affirmed that fishing solves part of the living suffering, as it provides a meal that makes them dispense with buying meat that they are unable to pay for in the first place.

Mohsen Gad, one of the fishermen, said, “Fishing compensates us for buying meat that we can no longer buy due to the insanely high price.”

He added that he comes to the sea daily for about two or three hours to secure his daily food in light of his inability to purchase various food commodities as before.

He continued, “Even vegetables have risen in price, and they are no longer available to everyone, and we are afraid of how we can continue living in our country.”

“The least we can do today is to resort to the sea,” with this sentence, “Saad Ibrahim expressed about the living suffering that drives some people to fish to secure food.

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He added, “We come to the sea to catch fish and secure our food on the one hand, and to relieve ourselves from the daily pressures on the other hand, in light of the escalating crises in the country.”

Asaad pointed out that if he is lucky and catches more fish than he needs for lunch or dinner, he sells some and gets a little money to buy his daily needs.

In addition to the high prices, the spread of unemployment has doubled the suffering of the Lebanese, and many of them are now finding in the sea their living and social outlet.

Abu Ismail does not seem affected by the high prices of meat and chicken, as he mainly prefers eating fish over other types of food.

He said, “Nothing compares to eating fish, because it is nutritious and full of vitamins and proteins, especially if it is fresh.”

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Chicken

Like cows and sheep, the price of a kilogram of chicken meat rose to about 50,000 pounds ($33) after 12,000 pounds ($7.9) before the economic crisis.

Lebanon imports about 500 tons of ready-to-cook chicken meat every month, and the country’s farms annually produce 100 million chickens. However, producers recently complained about the high cost of production, which was reflected in an increase in prices.

As a result of political differences, Lebanon has been unable for 8 months to form a new government to succeed the current caretaker government headed by Hassan Diab, which resigned 6 days after the catastrophic explosion of the port of Beirut in August 4 last.

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limited use

As for Walid Khader, who is also a fisherman, he said that fish may constitute an important source of food, but it is difficult to completely replace meat due to its limited use in cooking and preparing dishes.

He pointed out that traditional Lebanese dishes need meat, such as “kibbeh” and “kofta” and peas and beans dishes, and in light of the people’s inability to provide meat, this will lead to a change in their diet.

For more than a year and a half, Lebanon has been hit by a severe economic crisis, the worst since the end of the civil war in 1990, which has led to financial inflation, a significant decline in the purchasing power of most of the population, and a record rise in poverty rates.