Reda Sawaya wrote in the news:
The economic crisis has restored the luster to Al-Mouna, both in production and in consumption. The “habit” that many did not abandon, especially in villages and rural areas, has turned for many into a source of livelihood and income, in light of the remarkable growth in demand for it due to the electricity and transportation crises. However, it is remarkable that many of those who used to prepare mortar for personal consumption are no longer able to do so due to the fantastically high prices of its components.
With the summer coming to an end, the “ants” and the mortar tanks in the mountain houses are filled with jams, olives, makdous and pickles, bottles of rose water, blossom water, and olive oil tanks.
The same reasons that drove people to food in the past have reproduced themselves again. The difficulty of movement at that time, the rugged roads, and the harsh climatic conditions that isolated the regions from each other made supplying food on a daily basis a difficult task. “What today is like yesterday,” says Umm Charbel. Today, too, “we store the mortar because of the inability to move. It is true that there are cars, but there is no gasoline, and if there is a high cost. And every time they warn us against closing the ovens and cutting off bread. Therefore, I stockpiled all the necessary ingredients to prepare bread at home in case of necessity.”
Like “Umm Charbel,” many housewives confirm that mortar is an ideal option in light of the electricity crisis, because “dried mortar lasts for a long time and does not need refrigerators. In the past period, no one had to throw away large quantities of food after it had spoiled due to the power outage.” However, the economic crisis led to raising the cost of mortar production to record rates, which prevented many families from preparing mortar for personal consumption due to the inability to purchase their requirements…except for the “business” requirements. Previously, the preparation of mortar was a need rather than a trade. However, with the intensification of the economic crisis, the preparation and sale of mortar has become attractive to an increasing number of individuals, both men and women, young and old, with the aim of providing additional incomes with simple production tools.
Magdy Salman, owner of the “Ahl Al-Karm” Foundation, confirms that “the number of women who work in the preparation of mortar has increased significantly. Many of the housewives used to prepare the mortar only for their families and within a narrow framework, they find in the sale of the mortar an opportunity to achieve good incomes.” He explains that “demand increased despite the exponential increase in prices. The lid of the 3-kg jar jumped from 500 pounds to 5,000 pounds. The stacked jar, which weighs one kilogram, increased from 40,000 pounds to 80,000 pounds. Most of the customers are well-to-do coastal residents.”
Nicola Mazner, who specializes in developing private labels and brands, explains that “many people of different groups and ages are resorting to preparing, marketing and selling food products. Everyone who feels that he has a talent or a distinctive nutritional recipe tries to invest his talent and eat it. Many of those who enter this field are not necessarily unemployed, but are employees trying to secure an additional source of livelihood. Marketing is easy and inexpensive these days through social media. Our role is to help those who wish to develop their business, expand and market it professionally.”
Mervat Sarkis, owner of Convivio, which offers locally produced food and mortar, confirms that “demand this year has increased by about 25%. With the entry of new brands to the market, the Lebanese are not accustomed to them yet, and the fear of their quality, many people prefer to return to healthy foods that are free of preservatives and prepared at home. Moznar pointed out that «this is the ideal time to market a specific product and try to enter the market. Because of the crisis, there is no longer any loyalty to the well-known international brands due to their high prices. Today the equation has changed. Many new brands imported or locally produced with reasonable cost invade the market, and if the price is competitive and it tastes good, consumers will get used to it and demand it.”
Joe Anton, owner of the “Mona My Mom” Foundation, points out that “the cost has increased significantly compared to last year.” The price of a 5-kilo “pail” of milk increased from 20 thousand pounds to 75,000 pounds, and the price of a kilo of sugar increased from 3-4 thousand pounds to 16-18 thousand. The price of a kilo of baked eggplant has increased from 750 to 6000 pounds, and a kilo of nuts from 50,000 to 150,000, excluding the cost of fuel and gas. “We were dealing with a delivery company to secure orders for customers, and the cost of delivery to all Lebanese regions was 8,000 pounds, and today it is 35,000 pounds.” As for the products that witnessed a fantastic rise in prices, it is “the kiosk, which increased the price of a kilo from 50,000 pounds last year to 200,000 pounds due to the rise in the price of bulgur from 5,000 pounds to 18,000 pounds, in addition to the rise in milk prices.”
And the prices for nannies are no better. Paul Akl, owner of the “Ain al-Aql” Foundation, which is concerned with the production of jams from fruits without sugar, explains that “the cost in dollars has remained the same. The huge difference is when pricing in lira, which is about 40% higher. More than 90% of companies making jams have been affected by the increase in the price of sugar, which in some cases makes up three-quarters of their product. We were selling a bottle of apple juice for 7,000 liras. Today we sell it for 45 thousand. The cost of gas has become very stressful and costs me about a million pounds per week, so I am thinking of relying on firewood this year.”