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HE Akram Chehayeb

LEBANON - Agriculture

Hay There

Minister of Agriculture, Lebanon

Bio

Akram Chehayeb has a degree from the Beirut Arab University and a Master’s degree from the University of Cairo. His previous positions have included Minister of Environment and Minister of the Displaced.

Lebanon and the region is known to be “the home of agriculture.” What do you think makes Lebanon worthy of such a title? Historically, “the home of agriculture” was a […]

Lebanon and the region is known to be “the home of agriculture.” What do you think makes Lebanon worthy of such a title?

Historically, “the home of agriculture” was a Lebanese trademark of excellence for many reasons. Among them is the Mediterranean atmosphere it enjoys and four-season weather, which implies diversity in temperature enabling the growth of various agricultural products, such as cold weather products, warm products, Mediterranean products, and desert products, among others. In addition, Lebanon enjoys an environmental richness and a bio-agricultural diversity that enables the growth of fruit crops and other Mediterranean products. The coastal and internal plains, the mountainous and agricultural fields, and the forest areas represent the richness of agricultural products in Lebanon. Add to those the natural reasons, a social-economical belief based on a widely spread idea that “an easy living farmer is as wealthy as a ruler,” and Lebanon’s situation as a bridge between the West and the Arab world on the Mediterranean facilitated and still facilitates the trade of all agro-industrial products.

What are the main products produced in Lebanon for export, and what are the most significant markets?

The main products for export are fruits and vegetables. The official figures show that the main markets are the MENA region; France, which imported 456 tons of apples in 2013; Africa, mainly Nigeria and the Congo; and Germany, which imported 596 tons of grapes in 2013. In regard to citrus fruits, again, it is the Arab countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, which imported 21,144 tons in 2013, and then Russia, Australia, France, the UK, and Africa. Concerning potatoes, Lebanon exported 189,339 tons in 2013 to mainly Arab countries, Russia, and Africa. Finally, Lebanon exports olive oil to many countries, including Arab countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Spain, Germany, France, the UK, the Netherlands, Ukraine, Sweden, Canada, Australia, Latin America, and Africa, where a Lebanese diaspora is present.

What steps are being taken to improve the country’s infrastructure for agriculture and agro-industry, and what structural investments are being made to create jobs, reverse urban migration?

Among the steps that have been taken to improve the agricultural infrastructure we can state: the rehabilitation of agricultural lands; opening agricultural roads; creating artificial mountainous lakes; launching irrigation projects; and reducing the construction percentage in agricultural lands. In addition, steps are being taken to improve and support farmers’ capabilities by introducing various laboratories; for example, specialized laboratories to identify the nature of soils and their conformity with product types, laboratories to identify the validity of products, as well as research on seeds and agricultural medicine. The Ministry is trying to introduce more projects in cooperation with international organizations and donor countries to support farmers and improve the sector, help agricultural unions, cooperatives, and farmers groups, and provide them with all the facilities they need to improve the production both in quality and quantity, and reduce the cost of production as well as strengthen the domestic market while respecting the standards and requirements of growth and production. The Ministry of Agriculture introduced more control procedures over livestock, agro-industry firms, seeds, and agricultural medicine, while keeping tight control on refrigeration and conservation warehouses, all for the sake of respecting the chain of production. As for the agro-industry sector, the Ministry is seeking to provide farmers with low prices for raw materials, introducing new control measures on food safety, quality standards, and specifications, assuring long-term loans without interest, and improving marketing procedures. The structural investments are also being concentrated on the support of the agro-industrial sector with the aim of keeping the farmer attached to his land and help him market his products, while the Ministry has activated a support plan for the agricultural cooperatives meaning that the latter would participate in sharing the production costs, not to mention our efforts to encourage the conversion of unused and neglected lands to agricultural lands in order to make use of them agriculturally.

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