Mobile  |  About us  |  Photos  |  Videos  |  Subscriptions  |  RSS Feeds  |  Today's Paper  |  Classifieds  |  Contact Us
The Daily Star
SUNDAY, 20 APR 2014
01:51 AM Beirut time
Weather    
Beirut
22 °C
Blom Index
BLOM
1,214.01down
Lebanon
Follow this story Print RSS Feed ePaper share this
Agriculture plan draws fire from farmers
Workers pick green beans in the southern area of Zahrani.
Workers pick green beans in the southern area of Zahrani.
A+ A-

BEIRUT: The Agriculture Ministry voiced confidence over the weekend that its newly approved funding programs could overhaul Lebanon’s agricultural sector, but the Farmers Association complained that the initiatives were mired in corruption. Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan, who spoke at a ceremony in Baalbek, said a LL25 billion program to subsidize sugar beets in the Bekaa is crucial to clamp down on illegal crops and to improve socio-economic conditions for farmers.

The program was endorsed last month as part of plan to provide cannabis farmers with alternative crops and persuade them to let go of the illegal crop.

Another recently approved program, worth between LL28 and LL35 billion annually, would provide fodder subsidies for dairy cattle for over 200,000 farmers, Hajj Hasan added.

“The programs being implemented now were the same we purposed back in 2000, but no one had responded. Instead of reinforcing agriculture, [various Cabinets] dealt a blow to the sector,” he said.

“These came after long years of deprivation and neglect,” Hajj Hasan added, praising Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi for approving over LL150 billion annually for funding various agricultural programs.

Hajj Hasan also said an Agricultural Disaster Fund was on track, adding that the fund would receive support from the government through honorary members who pay subscription fees and donations but do not receive any benefits.

The reforms, however, were met with fierce opposition from the Farmers Association, which stepped up its criticism of the Agriculture Ministry, accusing it of money squandering and unevenly distributing funds.

Antoine Howayek, head of the Lebanese Farmers Association, told The Daily Star that his group remains strongly opposed to the Agriculture Ministry’s conduct.

“These are rightful [programs] unrightfully applied,” he said, complaining that the disaster fund would serve as “another outlet for corruption.”

Originally a law proposed in 2004 to create a publicly run agricultural insurance institute, the fund was watered down by Minister Hajj Hasan to a cooperative, Howayek said.

“Cooperatives have failed miserably in Lebanon and we do not have a single success story,” he said, adding that Hajj Hasan intends to use the fund for his party’s political ends.

“Instead of bringing together insurance companies, farmers and the government to create a professional institute, the minister wants a coop where very little transparency and accountability can happen,” he said.

Howayek’s criticism goes beyond the disaster fund – he accuses the ministry of unevenly distributing assistance to farmers based on sectarian and regional affiliations.

“A program to provide pesticides for olive plantations last year completely left out Koura, a major olive-producing area, and most assistance was given to areas where the minister’s party [Hezbollah] is influential,” he said.

The same, he claimed, happened with chemical fertilizers and seedlings distributed to farmers last year.

“Thousands of seedlings were handed out to local parties for distribution in their areas,” he said.

Commenting on the dairy cattle fodder subsidies, Howayek said control of industrial milk powder imports would have eliminated farmers’ woes without the need to squander millions of dollars.

The ministers’ failure to defend the Agricultural Calendar, which synchronizes when Arab countries could exchange produce based on local agricultural seasons, has cost farmers significant losses since the beginning of 2012, Howayek added.

“Imports from Arab countries now enter the country without the simplest tests for chemical residue and without any regulations,” he said.

Crucial steps to prop up the ailing sector were ignored by the ministry despite repeated calls, Howayek added, saying that proposals for the creation of an agricultural development bank and agriculture chambers were ignored after influential sides lobbied against them.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 10, 2012, on page 5.
Home Lebanon
 
     
 
Lebanon
Advertisement
Comments  

Your feedback is important to us!

We invite all our readers to share with us their views and comments about this article.

Disclaimer: Comments submitted by third parties on this site are the sole responsibility of the individual(s) whose content is submitted. The Daily Star accepts no responsibility for the content of comment(s), including, without limitation, any error, omission or inaccuracy therein. Please note that your email address will NOT appear on the site.

comments powered by Disqus
More from
Mohamad El Amin
 
 
Mobile VAT and customs revenue up tenfold
 
 
Central Bank bolsters money exchange regulations
 
 
Megaprojects underway despite slower market
 
 
Office towers on rise as residential demand fades
 
 
Insurance industry in lull despite rising premiums
Advertisement


Baabda 2014
Advertisement
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Linked In Follow us on Google+ Subscribe to our Live Feed
Multimedia
Images  
Pictures of the day
A selection of images from around the world- Saturday April 19, 2014
View all view all
Advertisement
Rami G. Khouri
Rami G. Khouri
Why Israeli-Palestinian talks fail
Michael Young
Michael Young
Why confuse gibberish with knowledge?
David Ignatius
David Ignatius
Echoes of 1914 characterize the Ukraine crisis
View all view all
Advertisement
cartoon
 
Click to View Articles
 
 
News
Business
Opinion
Sports
Culture
Technology
Entertainment
Privacy Policy | Anti-Spamming Policy | Disclaimer | Copyright Notice
© 2014 The Daily Star - All Rights Reserved - Designed and Developed By IDS