BEIRUT: Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said Wednesday that Lebanon lags behind other countries when it comes to agriculture cooperatives, calling for greater cooperation among farmers.
“Unfortunately ... the general evaluation of cooperative work in Lebanon is not positive,” Hajj Hasan said. “There are lots of cooperatives, but there is little cooperation.”
The minister said that the average size of agricultural property in Lebanon is 1.3 hectares. Owners of small lands cannot sell their produce at a favorable price, he continued.
“It is a small-size property, thus cooperatives are one of the most important solutions to address the problems of agriculture,” he said.
Hajj Hasan said that the ministry is accelerating steps to develop cooperatives, including the 300 approved since he took office.
The Agriculture Ministry has provided olive cooperatives with equipment granted by Italy worth around $500,000, he added.
Hajj Hasan’s remarks came at a news conference at the Agriculture Ministry where he announced that the ministry would mark World Food Day in a ceremony in UNESCO Palace on Oct. 15, under the patronage and presence of President Michel Sleiman.
The ceremony will be held jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the U.N. Development Program.
Hajj Hasan said that FAO chose the theme of “Agricultural cooperatives: key to feeding the world.”
Many of the minister’s remarks focused on media coverage of agricultural issues and he urged the media to be accurate in its reporting.
The minister expressed surprise at media claims that the state is not supporting exports, pointing out that maritime transportation of exports has already started.
“Unfortunately, some hurt rather than help farmers with these remarks ... If the reason [behind these reports] is to serve political and election interests, then it is a pity to do so at the expense of farmers,” he said.
The Hezbollah minister urged media outlets to report objectively on the agricultural sector. “Hasn’t the time come for some [media outlets] to be objective?” he asked. “Most of what is being said is false.”
He claimed that heads of some of agricultural unions make such accusations for media attention.
“Some say the state is absent, but the state has raised the budget of the agricultural sector by L.L. 200 billion over the past two years, including L.L 50 billion to develop exports,” he said.
The minister questioned calls by some for the government to work to open foreign markets for Lebanese produce exports.
“I want someone from those who call for opening markets to tell me which market is not importing Lebanese products ... is it that of Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Jordan, Gulf states or Russia?” he asked.
Hajj Hasan said that calls to open markets result in a decrease in the price of Lebanese agricultural products, as it gives the impression that there are no markets.