Lebanon Businessnews News

Beets to replace hash
$150 million-subsidy plan to support
plantation of sugar beets in Bekaa
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The Cabinet will support the plantation of sugar beets in Baalbeck, Hermel, and Akkar in a new subsidy scheme designed to compensate farmers for the destruction of hash fields in the Bekaa.

The government has recently cracked down on the growing of cannabis, destroying hundreds of donums (one donum equals 1,000m2) of cannabis plantations in the Bekaa.

The Cabinet allocated an annual stipend of $30 million for a five-year to promote the cultivation of sugar beets at its last session earlier this week. Out of these funds $16 million will be allocated for growing beets, $6.6 million will be for irrigation projects, and another $6.6 million will support the livestock sector.

A joint committee, with members drawn from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Economy and Trade, and farmers will manage the program. The project is expected to start next spring. Beets are planted in spring and harvested in the fall.

Antoine Howayek, president of the Farmers’ Association said the plan is far from perfect. “We have some reservations on the decision, like why these projects include only Baalbeck, Hermel, and Akkar, leaving out other areas such as the South and Mount Lebanon,” he said.

According to a report issued by the Ministry of Agriculture, growing sugar beets is a favored option due to the high prices of sugar, which reached $645 per ton as of July 2012. The price of sugar was $448 per ton in 2010. As per the report, planting 50,000 square meters of sugar beets would fulfill about 25 percent of domestic needs for sugar.

Howayek said supporting the plantation of beets is not cost efficient. He said global sugar prices are often lower than the cost of producing sugar at home. “It’s better to support the plantation of apples or potatoes, because they have a longer life span,” he said.

According to Howayek, extracting sugar from beets has adverse environmental impacts: “There is one sugar factory in the Bekaa, but its performance has been the center of much criticism.” He said waste resulting from the sugar factory often end up in the Litani River damaging farm land around it.

Reported by Rania Ghanem
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Date Posted: Aug 31, 2012