Exports nosedive in first semester. Industrialists call for Government support - Lebanon

Exports nosedive
in first semester
Industrialists call

for Government support

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Industrial and agricultural ‘real’ exports decreased 17 percent in the first half of this year, in comparison to the same period of 2015, registering $1.4 billion, according to figures published by Customs.

The ‘real’ export figures exclude pearls and precious stones which registered $305 million compared to $238 million last year. The figures also exclude mineral products (mostly oil products), which decreased to $95 million from $137 million in the previous year.

Entire exports decreased 21 percent in terms of weight, registering one million tons in the first half of 2016.

Industrial exports also fell, amounting to $1.3 billion. Fadi Gemayel, Chairman of the Association of Industrialists (ALI), said: “Industrial exports declined around 30 percent during the last three years due to the closure of Syrian borders and the unstable situation in Arab countries.”

Gemayel said that some companies have taken the initiative to maintain their export share by penetrating new markets, while others have chosen to reduce prices in order to retain their client base.

The fall in figures has reduced foreign currency inflows. “The Government should support industrialists through subsidizing transport costs,” said Gemayel. ALI suggested the Government allocate $50 million to support shipping costs, as well as starting an export guarantee program.

Exports of machinery and electrical instruments reached $270 million during the same period, decreasing by 27 percent. Chemical products dropped 32 percent to $155 million.

Exports of prepared foodstuff and beverages decreased 11 percent. The value of exports in tons decreased from 185,000 tons to 150,000 tons this year. Georges Nasraoui, Vice President of ALI, said: “The competitive edge of our products in the Gulf is diminishing due to the increase of our costs.”

Agricultural exports decreased 15 percent to reach $88 million in the first half of the year. The value of vegetable exports in tons decreased from 165,000 tons to 145,000 tons. Tony Tohmé, Head of the Economy Committee at the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture in Zahlé and Bekaa, said that this is due to the fierce competition in the Gulf market. “Vegetable exports from China, India, Algeria, and Pakistan are proving a viable alternative to our produce due to their lower prices,” said Tohmé.

Although transportation costs declined this year, they are still proving to be more costly than those from China. The cost of a refrigerated container shipped from Beirut to Dubai is around $1,800. Shipment from China to Dubai does not exceed $600. This price difference has led local producers to steer away from markets abroad. “Farmers and exporters prefer selling their produce locally,” Tohmé said.
Reported by Rania Ghanem
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Date Posted: Aug 04, 2016