Important grain silos at Beirut port remain inoperable three years after being damaged in an explosion, posing a rising threat to Lebanon’s food security.
The silos, which took a direct hit from the explosion before progressively collapsing, could hold 120,000 tons of wheat and cereals. Due to a lack of storage space, Lebanon is now unable to import significant amounts of wheat.
According to Dr. Bechara Asmar, head of the port’s workers’ syndicate and medical department, “the silos are currently surrounded by wire to prevent people from approaching them and preserve public safety.”
The rotting grains and wheat in the silos’ vaults have led to the authorities periodically spraying the region with pesticide to stop the development of fungi, he claimed.
Asmar continued, “The restoration work of the three basins adjacent to the silos hasn’t started, even though the silos could not degrade any further than they already had.” It is a desolate and paralyzed environment.
However, some political personalities oppose having the silos reconstructed on their original location, while the relatives of the deceased opposed having what is left of the silos demolished.
Fadi Abboud, a former minister, questioned whether it would be economically feasible to “rebuild the silos on land that cost $10 billion, aside from the increase in the number of trucks entering and exiting the port, making it the most overcrowded part of Beirut.”
According to Asmar, Abboud suggested transferring commercial operations to Tripoli to ease traffic congestion and converting the current port into an entrance point for tourist vessels.
“This proposal is rejected,” he declared. We can construct tourist ports everywhere along the Lebanese coast, but Beirut is special since it has one of the best Mediterranean Sea basins.
“It can complement the port of Tripoli and is deep, distinctive, and highly equipped to be an important trade corridor.”
The high-rise grain silos, which were regarded as a hallmark of the city, were damaged in the terrible explosion that struck Beirut port on August 4, 2020. The massive tanks really served as a shield, absorbing the majority of the blast’s force and protecting the southern portion of Beirut from devastation.
But when a portion of the silos fell, numerous people were murdered.
Days before the explosion’s second anniversary, grain that had matured inside the silos ignited, setting fire to them and the area around them. Firefighters struggled for several weeks to put out the flames as a result of the silos’ poor condition.
In 2021, Lebanon imported roughly 754,000 tons of wheat and used about 60,000 tons of it each month, according to customs records.
According to Asmar, the silos once contained enough supplies to last for six months to a year. In their comparatively small warehouses, the mills that import ordinary wheat for Lebanese pita bread are currently holding it. The total amount imported can last up to three months.