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Citrus leads agricultural exports surge

Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan attends a meeting in Beirut, Wednesday, April 4, 2012. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)

BEIRUT: Lebanese agricultural exports rose by 14 percent in 2012 despite the volatile situation in the region, the head of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon said Monday.

“Contrary to the general impression, agricultural exports last year rose by 14 percent to 454,000 tons compared to 400,000 tons in 2011,” Nabil Itani told a joint news conference with Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan.

Itani added that IDAL, thanks to its Agri Plus program, has helped Lebanese farmers market their produce to other countries.

“After more than a year and a half since the launch of the new program, we can say that the results have been quite positive,” he said.

Citrus ranked first among the agricultural produce that was exported throughout the world, accounting for 105,000 tons, he added.

Potatoes were also exported in large quantities, followed by fruit.

Egypt, Libya, Sudan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq and Iran received 330,000 tons of Lebanese agricultural produce.

Itani added that Lebanese olive oil would soon also be included in the Agri Plus program.

IDAL gives farmers facilities to export their produce provided that they meet international standards. Incentives include free packing and shipping.

Hajj Hasan said the statistics were obtained from the customs department and the Agriculture Ministry.

He added that there are other agricultural products being exported outside the Agri Plus program.

The minster admitted that despite these positive results, much Lebanese produce, most notably citrus, faces tough competition abroad.

Lebanese farmers often complain of unfair competition, especially from countries that have cheap labor, inexpensive energy and subsidized fertilizers.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 19, 2013, on page 5.

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