BEIRUT: Lebanon’s agro-industrial exports increased by 36 percent in volume and 15.5 percent in value in 2013 compared to the previous year, according to data reported in BLOM Invest’s weekly economic newsletter.
Agro-industrial products, which represented 11.4 percent of total exports in 2013, reached $473.80 million and contributed 1 percent to GDP, compared with 0.5 percent of GDP for raw agricultural exports, which constituted 5.5 percent of total exports.
Arab countries topped the list of importers at 51 percent, followed by Gulf Cooperation Council states at 21.3 percent of total exports, with the volume of exports to non-GCC Arab countries increasing by 68 percent in 2013.
Saudi Arabia topped the list, with total imports of $69 million in 2013 compared with $62.93 million in 2012, while Syria came second at $55.02 million, up from $51.64 million in 2012 mainly due to the ongoing conflict that dealt a blow to its agro-industrial activity.
Iraq and the United Arab Emirates had imports worth $51.44 million and $25.59 million in 2013, respectively, posting a respective 146.8 percent and 40.5 percent increase in the value of imports.
Forty-six percent of total agro-industrial output in 2013 was exported. The main exported products were prepared vegetables, fruits and nuts, at 25.6 percent of the total, followed by the beverages and spirits category at 22.1 percent and prepared edible such as soups, syrups and ice cream at 15.7 percent.
In line with the increase in agro-industrial exports, imports also rose year-on-year by 9.8 percent in volume to reach 866,795 tons. The trade deficit stood at $957.39 million, with the imports cover ratio up to 32.1 percent in 2013 from 28 percent in 2012.
The average price per ton for Lebanese exports dropped year on year by 13.4 percent in 2013 while that of imports fell by 8.5 percent, with prices in the agro-food industry mainly following international trends and partly influenced by the domestic and regional developments, BLOM Invest reported.
According to the most recent available figures, the agro-food sector represented an estimated 32.1 percent of the industrial sector output and 3 percent of total GDP, the Investment Development Authority in Lebanon reported in its factbook.
The sector employs an estimated 20,607 people, accounting for 24.9 percent of the industrial sector workforce, according to IDAL.
According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s annual Food Price Index, food prices increased by 25 percent in 2008, which translated to an increase of 22 percent in Lebanese export prices the same year to $1,580 per ton.
In 2011, food prices slipped by 16 percent to $1,280 per ton due the uprisings that swept the Middle East. This shift heavily influenced Arab demand for Lebanese agro-industrial products, sending their prices down despite the global growth, BLOM Invest reported.