Lebanon Businessnews News

Saudi Arabia turns down agricultural goods
Potatoes top embargoed products; each returned freight costs $4,000 in loss: exporters say
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Farmers and exporters complained that the Saudi authorities have blocked the admission of trucks loaded with agricultural products. The returned goods are mainly potatoes, but they also include fruits like pears, apples, plums, and oranges.

The president of the Association of Lebanese Farmers, Antoine Howayek, said that the goods were denied entry because the KSA has imposed new firmer standards on its agricultural imports. Howayek said that most exporters have began implementing the new standards, which are mainly related to weights and packaging.

Saudi Arabia imports around 50,000 tons of potatoes each year. Exporters have said that potato exports to the Saudi market this year still is far below 10,000 tons.

The new standards for exporting potato to the KSA stipulate that the goods must be washed before packing, and that they should be packed in packages of 5kg, 10 kg, or 15 kg. They also require that the potatoes be sorted into three groups according to their sizes (small, medium, large).

“I’ve sent five refrigerated trucks of potatoes to Saudi Arabia, they were all matching the new specifications, and they have all been returned,” said Tony Tohme, a potato exporter and Head of the Economy Committee at the Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture of Zahleh. He said that the returned freights were labeled with stickers saying that the goods “are not compliant with the standard specifications of Saudi Arabia.”

Tohme estimated the losses for each returned freight at $4,000. “Perhaps the main reason for setting such impossible standards is that the Saudi market is currently having a good season of local production,” he said.

Agricultural goods Exporters last month reported that their export freights to the KSA had been returned. After deliberations with officials in both countries, exporters were granted a one month grace period, starting September 20, to export their products to the Saudi market.

Tohme called the officials to reactivate the Export Plus program for supporting agricultural exports to alleviate the size of the loss on farmers and exporters. The program consists of a State subsidy on the transport of agricultural goods based on the quantity exported.

Date Posted: Oct 06, 2011
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