Syrian food imports halted for eight months. Measure needs effective implementation to have an impact - Lebanon

Syrian food imports
halted for eight months
Measure needs effective
implementation to have an impact
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The Ministry of Agriculture has decided to halt the import of fruit and vegetable trucks from Syria until February 2017. Imports need the prior approval of the ministry.

The decision took effect at the beginning of this month.

Ibrahim Tarshishi, Chairman of the Association of Bekaa Farmers, said: “We support this decision because the market needs to be protected. Our production stocks are not moving because the market is flooded with Syrian products.”

Local products exported to Syria require the approval of the Syrian ministries of economy and agriculture. “They have applied this system for the past 20 years. It is not wrong to want to be treated equally,” he said.

This is the peak of the agricultural season for farmers. “It is timely, but needs to be paired with stricter surveillance by Customs,” he said. The decision limits smuggling and illegitimate products. “Now that all these are prohibited, it would be easier to single out the smugglers,” according to Tarshishi.

Local farmers export citrus fruits and bananas to Syria. The neighboring country exports dates, pistachio, and gundelia (‘Akkoob’). The Syrian reaction is yet unknown. “The closest harvest is the banana season in October,” he said.

Kamil Skaff, a livestock farmer, said: “We don’t think the decision will affect the entrance of white cheese that is flooding the market because most of it is smuggled, not only from Syria, but also from Egypt and Morocco.” Syrian cheese is cheaper than local products because the production cost and milk is cheaper. One piece of local Akkawi cheese (around 500 grams) is sold for LL 8,000 ($5.3) versus LL 3,000 ($2) for that of Syria.

Skaff said that the decision, coupled with strict monitoring by Customs, would lead to an ideal situation for farmers. Local farmers produce 350,000 tons of milk per day, covering only half of the daily demand. “We still need to import some types of cheese,” he said.
Reported by Yassmine Alieh
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Date Posted: Jun 10, 2016