Lebanon Businessnews News

Agri-product smuggling
from Syria reverses direction
Damascus traders complain of trafficked Lebanese citrus fruits
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Smuggling of fruits and vegetables, typically from Syria to Lebanon, has changed direction as local produce has become relatively cheaper due to subsidies and a weaker lira.

Local farmers are no longer facing tough competition from Syria, Jordan, or Egypt and smuggling from Syria has decreased significantly, said Ramez Osseiran Chairman of the Farmers' Association in the South.

Smuggling has sometimes reversed trajectory, with Syria becoming the destination of Lebanese agricultural products. The Committee of Traders and Exporters of Vegetables and Fruits in Damascus has reported that citrus fruits were being smuggled from Lebanon to Syria.

Antoine Howayek , Chairman of the Lebanese Farmers Association, said that when the price difference increases, or when a crop is in short supply, exports or smuggling occur towards the country with the highest price and the scarce supply.

He said the decline of the exchange rate and the subsidies don’t have an absolute sway over the trade movement between the two countries and that availability of crops play a crucial role. Last winter loads of Syrian tomatoes entered the local market and large quantities of greengage plums (janarek) are now being imported from Syria as the local greengage harvest is poor, according to Howayek.

He said that most of the times, Syrian products enter the market through the legal crossings. Only when a commodity is not allowed to enter the country smuggling takes place, Howayek said.

Osseiran said that Syria’s impact over the local agricultural market will remain powerful as its agricultural strength outweighs Lebanon’s farming sector by far. He said that fixing the exchange rate will, no matter at which rate, will stabilize the market and will allow farmers to adapt to the new situation and improve their profitability.

The collapse of the exchange rate on Lebanon’s trade with the outside world was reflected by changes in the opposite direction of imports and exports. Exports of fruits and vegetables soared 48 percent in the first 11 months of 2020 compared with the same period a year earlier, according to the latest Customs data. Imports of these products plummeted 34 percent over the same period.
Date Posted: May 11, 2021
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