Minister of state for finance Fouad Siniora yesterday opened a new tobacco processing plant in Ghazieh, near Sidon, which is expected to boost the fast-growing industry.
“The plant is one of the most modern factories in the world and its output is 15 times more than that of the old facility,” Siniora said.
The 46 machines in the plant were donated by the British-American Tobacco (BAT) company while the tobacco regie provided the infrastructure.
“The number of tobacco farmers increased from 4,100 in 1992 to 28,000 in 1997. The total production increased in the same period from 1.7m tonnes to 9.1m tonnes,” the minister said.
Siniora, whose ministry is the supervising authority for the regie, praised the role of the regie in the national economy and British-American Tobacco for its donation and disclosed that another plant will be inaugurated soon in Hadath.
He added that the main goal for the next phase is to improve the processing of tobacco and its quality.
Hamdeh Khaled, one of the 250 workers at the plant, said work would now become harder because of the larger output of the new plant.
“Things used to be easier, now we will have to process 15 times more than we did before. But we will be more comfortable since we can sit while working,” she said.
British-American Tobacco’s regional representative, Turk McLeod, said the company was interested in expanding its co-operation with the government.