BEIRUT: Lebanon will fix the price of milk to protect local dairy farmers after prices dropped below the cost of production due to a sudden decrease in demand, Health Minister Wael Abu Faour announced Monday.
In a joint press conference with Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb and Economy Minister Alain Hakim, Abu Faour announced that “there has been an agreement to fix the price of one liter of milk at LL 1,100.”
The decision was made after local farmers in eastern Lebanon began staging protests to condemn the sudden drop in milk prices from LL 1,100 per liter to around LL 700. The farmers had said that it cost them LL 900 to produce a liter of milk.
The decrease resulted from the shutting down of over half a dozen dairy factories that violated food safety standards, which decreased the demand for milk.
Abu Faour also revealed that one of the biggest dairy product companies in Lebanon, Taanayel Les Fermes, tried to exploit the dairy farmers and blackmail the health ministry in light of the crisis.
He said that Taanayel, whose products have yet to be examined, told the struggling dairy farmers that the company would buy milk from them if they pressure the health ministry into publicly announcing that Taanayel meets safety standards.
“Some factory owners agreed on fixing the price of milk, while others are hoping to exploit the matter by using indirect methods,” he said.
“Any extortion will prompt me to take legal action,” he warned.
Chehayeb in turn said fixing the milk prices was to avoid the destruction of milk safety. He also reminded companies of Lebanon's existing laws that apply to them.
“It is forbidden to import cheese and sell it as a Lebanese product,” he said. “It is forbidden to not buy milk from local producers and use instead powder milk as fresh.”
He said some factories mix Labneh with preservatives and vegetable oils, which is also against food safety standards.
“We are monitoring, following up and holding people accountable concerning the production and marketing of milk,” Chehayeb underlined. “The food safety campaign will go on until the end of all food-related corruption in the country.”
Economy Minister Alain Hakim also made a brief comment in which he highlighted that his ministry is protecting the implementation of the campaign in coordination with the other ministries.