The current turmoil in Syria, triggered by last year’s uprising, was widely predicted to hit exports of bananas and citrus from Lebanon, but the impact has not been as significant as once feared, according to a report in The Daily Star.
The deteriorating value of the Syrian pound and falling consumption have certainly had an effect, but Antoine Howayek, head of the Farmers Association, revealed that citrus exports to Syria had in fact risen.
“In 2011, we exported 31,000 tonnes of citrus produce to Syria,” he said, “while in 2010 it was slightly less at 27,500 tonnes.”
Banana exports, however, plummeted by 55,000 tonnes in 2011, according to Howayek, from 90,000 tonnes in 2010 to 35,000 tonnes in 2011.
Lebanon reportedly produces approximately 110,000 tonnes of bananas, the vast majority of which are exported to Syria.
As for the start of 2012, the Syrian crisis has had a limited impact on Lebanese exports, according to Nabil Itani, head of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL).
Up until March, he said, agricultural exports to Syria had declined by 30 per cent compared with the same period last year – a smaller drop than previously feared.
Meanwhile, agricultural exports to other Arab countries, through the Lebanese-Syrian border, had decreased by a relatively modest 10 per cent in 2012, he revealed.
“In 2011, the total agriculture exports reached 470,000 tonnes while in 2010 it was around 532,000 tonnes,” he said. “The difference is mainly because of the lower banana exports to Syria, but overall the figure reflects stability in the volume of exports to our traditional markets in the Arab Gulf and Iraq,” he said.
Moreover, agricultural imports from Syria remained stable at 70,000 tonnes, both in 2010 and 2011, The Daily Star reported.
This week, the agriculture ministry and IDAL reportedly launched a new LL50bn (€25.2bn) agricultural export subsidy programme aimed at opening up new markets for Lebanese produce.