BEIRUT: The agriculture and economy ministers said Thursday they took steps to kick-start an initiative to subsidize sugar beet agriculture. The initiative, which was endorsed by the Cabinet last month, will allocate LL45 billion annually over the next five years as part of a plan to introduce alternative crops to marijuana farmers. “Starting Monday the Sugar Beet and Industrial Crops Cooperative will begin receiving applications from farmers under a criteria set by the ministries,” Economy Minister Nicholas Nahhas said. He said there are 40,000 to 45,000 dunums in the Bekaa suitable for sugar beet farming. Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said his ministry is working on a plan re-open a sugar factory and farmers’ cooperative.