SIDON, Lebanon: Abu Mohammad Nassar races his bicycle against the summer elements as he transfers an ice block to his modest shop in the southern city of Sidon.
With severe power cuts across Lebanon due to acute fuel shortage crisis, Nassar depends on these large ice cubes to cool the fresh juices he sells at his shop. As if the power cuts at his shop were not enough, his only supplier of ice appears set to be forced by the fuel crisis to shut down.
“If Jalloul Factory closes, then that’s it, I’ll have to shut down,” Nassar told The Daily Star, adding that the owner of the factory had told businesses depending on his ice that he would have to shut down soon if he doesn’t secure diesel for his generator.
The Jalloul Factory for the manufacture of ice blocks and its derivatives has always been a destination for citizens and businesses during this time of the year, whether to reduce the summer heat or the severity of the crisis of electricity rationing.
It is the oldest and most famous factory for the manufacture of ice blocks, dating back more than 100 years, and it is the only factory of its kind remaining in Sidon.
The owner of the factory, Jamal Jalloul, says the cessation of the factory will have a negative impact on all businesses that depend on ice, especially the sector of selling fish, meat and juices.
"The problem today is that this factory is threatened with closure due to the electricity and diesel crises, knowing that with its ice it feeds the marine fishing sector. Without ice, fish cannot be displayed or sold,” Jalloul, who inherited the factory from his father to grandfather.
“Likewise, it is used to preserve meat and chicken, in restaurants, supermarkets, and itinerant juice sellers, besides Its domestic and individual uses in homes.”
He said that he can no longer keep his business afloat with no electricity and subsidized diesel to operate a generator.
Jalloul points out that his factory produces about 200 ice blocks daily, each weighing 25 kg. Each one sells for between LL20,000 and LL40,000 (about $1-$2 at currency’s black market rate).
"We used to sell the slate for $4,” he said. “Now we sell it for one or two dollars at best. As you can see, between the high cost of operating the plant and production, the power outage and the exhaustion of diesel, we are no longer able to stand on our feet, knowing that our work is seasonal and the plant operates mainly in the summer.”
“Considering that in winter the demand for snow decreases due to the cold weather, we work in the summer to save two piastres to help us survive the winter,” Jalloul said.
“But it seems that after this crisis, we will not see snow except in winter!"