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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Bakeries closing - Arabs running out of bread!

A shocking story of food shortages - in oil-rich Saudi Arabia:
Many Jeddah bakeries closed their doors to customers because of ever increasing high flour prices.

Bakery owners waiting for flour from flour distributors said they were like beggars waiting outside a mosque.

"I have closed one of my bakeries that has been in operation for 40 years, after tomorrow I will close the others," said Abu Ahmad who owns several bakeries in Jeddah.

Ahmad said that outside the Grain Silos and Flour Mills Organization (GSFMO) the atmosphere is more closely related to a mafia rather than a government flour distributor.

"There are a lot of people who sell the flour at unreasonable prices - they bought it from the government for SR22 then they sold it on the black market for more than SR80," Ahmad said.

Ahmad said that when he reported the high prices to the GSFMO about the illegal practices of the grain dealers, they responded by saying that was none of their business.

Flour sellers like Jadal Haq Hosein said he cannot provide customers with flour in sufficient quantities because he himself does not get enough from the distributors.

"Flour shops do not sell more than five kilograms per customer for two reasons: the first being we want to satisfy all our customers and secondly the distributors of flour don't supply shops with enough quantity," Hosein said.

Some customers spend up to three hours looking for bread. Many have asked the government for help. Adnan Kutubkhana, a Saudi customer said that bakeries cannot meet the demand of their customers in the conditions as they are.

"At these rates, after three days, the supermarkets and bakeries will be out of bread," Kutubkhana said.

"I looked for bread in more than 10 supermarkets, when I found it the bread vendor refused to give me more than two riyals' worth."

Many bakeries in Makkah, nearby villages and Taif have also closed due to the shortage of flour.

When Gaza bakeries close because of an artificial flour shortage, it makes world headlines. But the equally starving Saudis just can't catch a break.