Tobacco harvest hoped to reach 8 million tons
Major investments promised for industry
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The state-run tobacco monopoly, Régie, will begin collecting the tobacco harvest as of the first of November, the union of tobacco farmers’ associations announced on Tuesday (October 30).

The produce will be gathered at 14 centers distributed across the different casas. The Régie will first purchase tobacco from the South and the North. The harvest of Bekaa will be purchased around the end of the year.

The Régie supports tobacco farmers by buying their produce at higher prices, and selling it back to foreign companies at lower prices.

“The overall tobacco production reached around eight million tons this year,” said Hassan Fakih, president of the Union of Tobacco Farmers’ Associations. The production was around 4.6 million tons in the South, and 1.8 million tons in each of the North and the Bekaa.

Last year the Ministry of Finance raised the prices at which it buys tobacco from local producers. It set the price of one kilogram of good quality tobacco at $11.8, while that of medium quality at $8.4, and that of low quality at $3.2.

According to Fakih, the prices vary between one region and another. He said the Régie is buying tobacco grown in the South at $8 per kilogram on average, while those grown in the North and in the Bekaa at $7 per kilo on average.

Fakih said around 80 percent of the annual produce is exported to foreign manufacturers. He said Cedars, the only local cigarettes brand, includes 90 percent of locally-grown tobacco leaves in its composure.

The Régie had earlier announced that significant investments will be made in tobacco manufacturing, including a new $2 million tobacco-rolling line, and a tobacco sorting factory.

Fakih said investments in new factories are much needed to grow the industry: “There is a big demand on Cedars cigarettes, and we could increase our exports to the Arab countries, especially Syria and Iraq.”
Reported by Rania Ghanem
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Date Posted: Oct 30, 2012