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Explosion at Port of Beirut damages grain silos, terminal: reports

Highlights

Wrecked silos not believed to contain huge quantity of grain

Silos serve as strategic grain reserves for Lebanon

New Delhi — A depot at the Port of Beirut in Lebanon caught fire and led to an explosion Aug. 4, damaging the city's largest grain elevator nearby and causing material damage to other structures in the area, according to local media reports.

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Beside the grain silos, a grain terminal was seen damaged in the explosion, according to various reports and analysts. The port handles 60% of all Lebanon imports.

The silos have a total capacity of 120,000 mt of grains, according to Elena Neroba, a market analyst at Maxigrain. The silos consist of 48 big cells, with a capacity of 2,500 mt/cell, and 50 small cells that can hold 500 mt each, Neroba said.

The silos serve as a strategic storage for Lebanon, with about 85% of the country's cereals stored in the facility, according to trading company Mena Commodities.

However, it is believed the silos did not contain huge quantities of grain at the time of the explosion, as the country tried to meet a shortage of bread that surfaced recently due to the current financial crisis, the company said.

Lebanon, which is in the midst of a financial crisis, has to depend on wheat imports to secure food supplies, as domestic production covers only 10% of the country's consumption. Lebanon's local demand for wheat ranges from 35,000-40,000 mt every month.

While most of the wheat imports are done by private mills, the Lebanese government early this year considered importing wheat for the first time in six years amid growing supply concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most of Lebanon's wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine.

Lebanon generally imports 1.2 million mt of wheat and 900,000 mt of corn each year, Neroba said.

Barley imports have been lower, with last year's volumes at 70,000 mt, though they are expected to import up to 200,000 mt in 2020-21, she said.

Wheat accounts for more than 80% of Lebanon's agriculture imports, followed by corn and barley. Most of the wheat enters through the terminal that took the hit.

According to a news report from MTV Lebanon, Lebanese interior minister Mohamed Fehmi said the explosion appeared to be caused by stored ammonium nitrate, which is generally used for fertilizers.

Multiple casualties were reported from the explosion.