BEKAA VALLEY, Lebanon: Eighty five trucks carrying exports to Jordan returned to Lebanon last week after rebel groups in Syria prevented the drivers from reaching their destination, industry sources in Lebanon said Monday.
The drivers reported that the Free Syrian Army, which they said had control of the main Damascus-Deraa road, had forced them to return to Lebanon under the pretext that the contents they were transporting was bound for the regime in Damascus.
The GCC-bound trucks, which were hauling agricultural and industry products, were in Syria for five days before the drivers decided to return over the weekend via the eastern Masnaa border crossing.
Agriculture Minister Hussein Haj Hasan, who has downplayed the impact of the Syria crisis on the sector, tasked staff at his ministry to follow up on the case.
He has asked the ministry’s general director, Louis Lahoud, to make the necessary contacts to facilitate the transit of the trucks to Arab countries.
The return of the trucks comes as Lebanon’s economic sector continues to be hammered by the effects of the conflict in its neighbor.
Lebanese Farmers Association, in a statement Monday, said the sector reported a decline of exports in 2012.
According to a statement, agriculture exports fell 11.3 percent in 2012 compared to 2010 and increased 1.3 percent in 2012 compared to 2011.
The statement also placed the blame for the decline on the Agriculture Ministry for failing to create routes for Lebanese trucks heading to Jordan and Egypt.
“The Agriculture Ministry and IDAL are responsible for the losses that came as a result of the closing of land routes in Syria after the destruction of a bridge in Deraa and the return of 85 trucks and the destruction of their produce,” the statement said.
In an interview with The Daily Star last month, Haj Hasan said the impact of the Syria crisis on Lebanon’s sector has been minimal, saying only banana and citrus produce exports had witnessed losses.
Last week, Transportation Minister Ghazi Aridi said that the Lebanese government had sent an envoy to Amman to follow up with Jordanian and Syrian authorities and assist in securing the return of the trucks.
Aridi said Lebanon was negotiating with shipping companies to allow for the transportation of GCC-bound trucks via sea to Jordan’s Aqaba.
The ministry is in final negotiations with several shipping companies to create a roll-on-roll-off ship routes to Aqaba from Tripoli, Lebanon, which have become increasingly necessary given the difficulty in reaching destinations via Syria.