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Commercial farming of vegetables and greens in Akkar is a burden on farmers who are now shifting to subsistence


Al Mustaqbal newspaper published a report on the planting of vegetables and greens in Akkar and which became a big burden on both small and large farmers as well as on seasonal land leases.  Farmers point out to a long list of challenges and hurdles namely the cost of production, the unfair conditions imposed by “middle men” (namely their commission charge), growing debts, competition from similar products brought in illegally from others countries, uninhibited monopoly control exercised by the “mafia merchants” of seeds and chemicals, aside from the unsuccessful attempts at marketing.  Challenges also include negative fallbacks from the deteriorating security situation, developing Syrian crisis over the past two years, the closing of official borders and the increased practice of road blocking.
The president of the farmers’ syndicate in North Lebanon, Ali al Ali, notes in his description of the situation of the past two years that there is a steady return to household agriculture in order to save cost as well and with the absence of good quality products.  He adds that commercial companies that import seeds insist on importing specific kinds which they say are more resistant to disease.  He also accused the latter to of spreading false rumors on non existing diseases so as to block the importing of specific kinds of seeds that are common regionally and internationally.  He noted that these practices are continuing despite lab tests that do not support their claims.  The real problem resides in the unbalanced nature of the relation existing between the farmers and the intermediaries with the latter putting pressure to control production and marketing.  Al Ali referred to the Arab Agreement for Facilitation and Promotion of Trade among Member Countries which supposedly lifted commercial trade barriers between Arab countries but without standardizing customs procedures and rules as well as subsidies systems. This situation has had negative affects on agriculture in Akkar notably the greenhouse sector whose farmers suffer most from poor social and economic conditions and from unfavorable prices.
One of the vegetable growers in Akkar, Samir Kheshfeh, noted that farmers are constantly in a battle from one season to another in an attempt to compensate their losses especially from planting vegetables and greens which are presumably less costly than others and do not necessitate high maintenance.  This has in effect caused a supply deficit of the most commonly consumed vegetables in the Lebanese cuisine and the rise of their prices as indicated in the price lists in the markets in Halba and its vicinity, which is considered a key indicator of the vegetable markets across the North.  According to Kheshfeh, the solution resides in circumventing the middlemen, and in developing strong and direct relations between the farmer and the consumer through agricultural cooperatives.  He also noted the importance of operating the new Saad Hariri market in Abdeh which would result in decreasing transportation and other logistical costs.
Source: Al-Mustaqbal 7 January 2014

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