BEIRUT: The European Union has granted Lebanon the right to export 50,000 tons of potatoes, reversing a decadelong export prohibition, the Agriculture Ministry said Monday. Farmers in the Bekaa Valley and Akkar will be able to export produce under several conditions outlined in the decision made by the EU last month, ministry officials said.
Caretaker Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said the decision was a result of a program to improve production quality, funded by the Italian government, and years of negotiations with EU authorities.
He said Lebanon had been on the blacklist for potato imports to Europe since the publication of a report confirming the presence of the brown rot disease in the 1960s.
The minister said the decision would particularly help farmers in Akkar because the harvest calendar was between April 15 and May 30.
“A decision will be made soon to specify how to implement the decision including measures taken from planting to harvest,” he said. “The monitoring of 50,000 tons of potatoes will not be difficult, because it will be about 5,000 to 10,000 dunams of land.”
European Union Ambassador Angelina Eichhorst said the lifting of the ban was a result of cooperation with the Agriculture Ministry.
“It is an important decision because it acknowledges efforts by Lebanese authorities particularly the Agriculture Ministry,” she said.
She said the Agriculture Ministry should assemble a list of qualified farmers and exporters and issue a health certificate for every shipment.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 10, 2013, on page 5.