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Potato farmers request halt of imports

2-7-2020

The head of the Beqaa Farmers’ Gathering, Ibrahim Tarshishi, yesterday discussed with the head of the Potato Farmers Association, George Sakr, the difficulties slowing the production of potato production in the Beqaa area. Among these, he mentioned: losses resulting from the closure of foreign markets; importation in US dollars against sales in Lebanese pound; problems in marketing of produce as well as the fluctuating prices of diesel. Noting, that the meeting comes one day after the announcement by the above gathering that it will not sell potatoes for one whole day due to the skyrocketing dollar price. Sakr pointed out that potato growers and farmers in general, are going through an economic hardship. Crops, mainly potatoes, onions and fruits, have been planted when the US dollar exchange rate was stable at LBP 1500, while the seeds and fertilizers were imported on the basis of the current exchange rate for the dollar, Sakr explained. Sakr further stressed that Lebanese farmers cannot make up for the heavy losses incurred even if they sold the whole harvest. Tarshishi for his part, lamented the confiscation by banks of farmers’ money, the cancellation of all agricultural loans and vetoing the opening of a loan account to purchase agricultural provisions. He appealed to officials to work to meet the following demands: 1) securing fuel at the official rate, 2) allocating a maximum sum of USD 100 million to the sector similar to industry while not sustaining the import of certain agricultural goods, like chickpeas, lentils, fava beans and barley, 3) asking IDAL to increase subsidization of one ton of exported potato from LBP 300 to 500 per one kg, 4) lifting various barriers on land export, and 5) suspending import of any agricultural commodity, namely potato, throughout the year to enable local farmers to supply the domestic market’s needs. Tarshishi voiced regret over the soaring prices of crops saying farmers are forced to do so due to the staggering rise of cost prices. Addressing the government, Tarshishi warned that should the official response continue to be reckless, farmers will regretfully seize to supply the market with potato for a while, threatening to stage an all-out strike across the Beqaa region as of next week. (Al Diyar, July 2, 2020)

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