Banana 'Day of Rage' still on despite export efforts.
Summary: Caretaker Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb Sunday defended his Syrian agricultural goods policy that contributed to challenges of farmers looking to export crops from Lebanon, as banana growers vow to push ahead with day of rage.
BEIRUT: Caretaker Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb Sunday defended his Syrian agricultural goods policy that contributed to challenges of farmers looking to export crops from Lebanon, as banana growers vow to push ahead with day of rage. "I originally called for halting all forms of citrus produce that were readily available locally [from being imported] so the market would not negatively affect Lebanese farmers," Chehayeb said. "[The Syrian government] was annoyed with my decision, but my conscience is clear because I care about the Lebanese farmers and Lebanon," he told The Daily Star Sunday evening.
Following outrage from banana growers over lack of export options, the Lebanese government has negotiated a 24-hour window with Syria local media reported Sunday. Local television outlet NBN reported the announcement came after efforts by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to negotiate with Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdul Karim.
Chehayeb said that Hezbollah and Berri were in contact with Syrian officials in order to facilitate the export of bananas.
This comes one day after the Lebanese Farmers' Association urged the government to contact Damascus in a bid to resolve the crisis in exporting goods through Syria.
Due to fighting in the near 6-year old civil war in Syria old export routes through the country to Jordan, Iraq and the Gulf have been closed. Also political bickering has seen bans on the sale of Lebanese produce in Syria.
Antoine Howayek, head of the Lebanese Farmers Association, Saturday said that Chehayeb's decision to ban imports from Syria, except for licensed items, had prompted Syria to deal with Lebanese farmers the same way.
The association said that it will be going ahead with a "Banana Farmers Day of Rage" Monday in order to pressure the government into compensating them for seasonal losses. They are demanding $6.66 in compensation for every bundle of banana, Howayek explained.
Farmers across Lebanon have faced a difficult season with few options but to sell locally. The government issued a decree earlier this year to compensate apple growers due to the lack of export routes available as well as cherry farmers in Arsal for financial losses caused by fighting around their farms on the Syrian border.
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|Publication:||The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)|
|Date:||Nov 14, 2016|
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