Hitting a wall: a grower, packer and exporter draws a topology of problems affecting Lebanese Agriculture

This thread was written by Ghena Hariri (@GhenaHariri) on March 19, 2020.

I am following @souhad_16 ‘s advice & writing a thread about Agriculture in Lebanon from the point of view of the grower/packer/exporter. I am not a farmer but the daughter of a 4th generation one and 1st generation land owner.

These are the problem I faced in my 12 years experience in the post harvest field.

1. In terms of access to produce: most growers are afraid to commit to quantity & prices. They always had the attitude that prices will go up and I will loose money.

2. Packers exporter who adhere to client standards have to deal with the odd produce that doesn’t. The moment it is sent back to market, it’s slashed as a loss since it’s a reject.

3. Many either bought or smuggled produce from neighboring countries and labeled it as Lebanese.. there goes competition in export market.

4. Cost of production: the cost of production includes utility, labour, packaging and transport and financing. When it comes to utility there is no special pricing for agriculture ساعة زراعية where as countries like Egypt have it.

In terms of labour we are 5 times more expensive than surrounding competitive countries. Naturally in this case one would look into investing in post harvest technology, then again we would face financing issue.

There were a number of subsidized loans that were helpful but not enough. A packing house is not considered industrial hence won’t get an industrial loan (this scheme was stopped a few years back), kafalat might cover partial cost but not an integrated solution

For transportation: Land trucks are available but with the monopoly of the union prices are exorbitant especially during the summer months. Ref trucks who come in loaded to LB leave empty due to some legislation.

Air transport: the only relatively secure mode is commercial airlines and fresh produce is not a priority. The airport is not prepared. There’s only one refrigerated facility in which they keep an array of goods and other things.

Not to mention the scale is not calibrated and the instances of people wanting to sample your produce

Sea transport: due to the lack of volumes, there is no direct lines to our port of exports mainly GCC countries. There were talks about RIRO options when the war in Syria started but again volume issues

The issue of nostalgia: growers & exporters still think that our export market only want Lebanese produce no matter what the quality. Forgetting that these markets are exposed to produce from all over the world with the highest qualities.

IDAL export plus: this is was a good initiative had it been more structure. The subsidies on transport paved the way for garage packing with barely any standards. One village had 12 packing facilities belonging to one family. Had the program evolved into investment in packing infrastructure the economy of scale would lead to lower transport cost.

I do apologies for the long thread @RizkCharbel @MalekRobert @MouhanedD

I would like to invite @lilizfarm to do a thread about their experience.

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