This week, at fruit and vegetable markets in Beirut, lemons, bananas and other fruits were suddenly on offer at discounts of up to 50 per cent. It was nothing less than a fire sale and for Lebanon’s farmers, it is a complete disaster. This rush to offload fruit wasn’t spurred by competitive market sellers, but rather by drug dealers and unscrupulous customs officials.
Last week, after discovering millions of amphetamine pills in a shipment of pomegranates delivered from Lebanon, the Saudi Arabian authorities decided to halt Lebanese agricultural produce imports indefinitely, until security fears are allayed. The decision was supported by the majority of Saudi Arabia’s Gulf neighbors, who receive the bulk of Lebanese agricultural imports via Saudi ports.
This meant that Lebanese fruit and vegetable farmers, who have seen their own costs rise as a result of the economic crisis, have found themselves cut off from the Gulf, which accounts for 55 per cent of their export trade.
Agriculture as a whole accounts for a mere five per cent of Lebanon’s economy, and the majority of exports are produced by large-scale commercial operators rather than independent farmers; the latter tend to produce for domestic consumers. They will now lose out from the dumping of products intended for export into local market stalls. And the longer the situation continues, the more it will threaten the jobs of ancillary workers, such as lorry drivers.
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