Lebanon Businessnews News

Fuel exports climb
Syria tops destinations
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Fuel products were the second most exported commodity in the first quarter of 2013, after pearls and precious stones. Fuel exports, listed under mineral products in Customs figures, recorded a 460 percent year-on-year increase in value to $184 million compared to the same period in 2012. The increase is mostly attributed to more exports of fuel oil. As for destinations, Syria had the biggest share of overall exports with $230 million, a 200 percent year-on-year increase.

Naji Daccache, Financial Controller at Uniterminals, an oil distributing firm, said Syria’s recent demand for fuel products is associated with the ongoing conflict there. “Syria has its own fuel sources and used to export them into Lebanon and even into Europe, if it is no longer producing any fuel at home then it has to import the commodity from different sources, including Lebanon,” he said. “Fuel oil is being re-exported to Syria with the approval of Lebanese authorities,” said Joseph Geagea, expert in oil and fuel. According to Daccache, the embargo on Syria only concerns buying Syrian fuel and does not apply to selling fuel to the country.

The trade balance in the first quarter registered a deficit of $4.3 billion, ten percent less than in the same 2012 period, but still higher than the deficit of Q1 2011. Geagea said higher local demand and exports to Syria were behind the surge: “In the past few years, fuel oil used to be imported and sometimes smuggled from Syria into the local market. This stopped with the war in Syria, which urged local traders to increase fuel imports.” He also said local demand on fuel oil is rising due to the increase of power-rationing hours. According to Geagea, the local market consumes around 1.5 million tons of fuel oil on a yearly basis.

Overall imports amounted to $5.5 billion, down by eight percent. Exports stood at around $1.2 billion, up by three percent year-on-year. Imports were led by mineral products, namely fuel and its derivatives, with a total value of $1.5 billion, unchanged year-on-year. However in Q1 2012 fuel imports recorded a drastic 100 percent surge in volume and a 120 percent increase in value compared to Q1 2011. Imports of mechanical appliances grew to $717 million, up by 37 percent year-on-year, while those of chemical products rose by 12 percent to $486 million. Vegetable products rose by 31 percent to $283 million.

The US topped the list of import sources with ten percent of all imports, followed by Italy, China, and Turkey with equal shares of eight percent each. Imports from Russia grew by 250 percent to $376 million, representing seven percent of all imports for the first time since at least 2008. Geagea said fuel oil accounted for most Russian imports.

Reported by Hanadi Chami
Date Posted: May 02, 2013
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