Lebanese wheat farmers struggle to support themselves amid runaway inflation

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Harvesters are busy harvesting the sprawling wheat fields in eastern and southern Lebanon, marking the start of this year’s harvest season amid a food crisis in Lebanon compounded by global supply shortages.

However, a bumper harvest cannot exempt Lebanese farmers from fears of heavy financial losses, as the purchase price for wheat on the domestic market is 980,000 Lebanese pounds (about US$35) per ton, while prices International food prices can reach up to $500, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ Monthly Food Price Index.

Working in some 50 acres of field in the al-Marj plain in eastern Lebanon, Jamil Chamoun said selling wheat in local currency is not profitable, given that the Lebanese pound has devalued more by 90%.

Jamal Zitouni, a 60-year-old farmer from the southern Lebanese town of Nabatieh, said some farmers sell more to wholesalers who can pay in dollars.

Charbel Eid, another farmer from the southern town of Marjeyoun, said that with low crop prices hurting farmers, without sufficient grain subsidies, farmers are more inclined to “grow other (types of) crops for better financial returns.

With around 300,000 dunams (about 30,000 hectares) of land in Lebanon planted with wheat, domestic supplies sometimes cover only around 10% of the country’s needs, according to Abdallah Zeaiter, head of the Union of Wheat Producers’ Union. East of Lebanon.

Lebanon imported much of the rest from Ukraine and Russia and has suffered from a severe wheat crisis since the disputes between the two neighboring countries, according to Lebanese Economy and Trade Minister Amin Salam.
Additionally, major wheat silos guaranteeing six months of wheat supply were destroyed in the August 2020 Beirut port explosions, leaving Lebanon with only one month of nationwide storage capacity.

The director general of the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, Michel Afram, told Xinhua that the government plans to support wheat production and that the institute last year donated some 1,000 tons of soft wheat seeds and hard on low-cost farmers to secure wheat production.

The institute has also submitted a project to the Ministry of Agriculture on the cultivation of soft and durum wheat in the north, east and south of Lebanon to meet a quarter (250,000 tons) of Lebanon’s wheat needs. by 2025.

Lebanon’s agriculture ministry told Xinhua that there are 5,500 wheat farmers in Lebanon, with 1 million dunums of land that can be planted with wheat and barley in the coming years, adding that it will work to support farmers and help them obtain seeds and pesticides and is studying the possibility of maintaining the prices of wheat purchased by the State at levels close to those of the world market.

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