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Country Briefs

  Lebanon

Reference Date: 04-July-2017

FOOD SECURITY SNAPSHOT

  1. Slightly below average cereal harvest forecast in 2017

  2. Cereal import requirements in 2017/18 set to remain stable

  3. Number of registered Syrian refugees in country stabilized

Slightly below average cereal harvest forecast

Harvesting of the 2017 winter barley, which started in mid-May, is about to be completed. Harvesting of the 2017 winter wheat crop started in early June and will continue until mid-August.

Remote sensing data shows that accumulated estimated precipitation so far in 2017 fell short of that of 2016 in all agricultural areas except Liban Sud. In the most agriculturally productive Beqaa Valley growing mostly fruits, vegetables and potatoes, the accumulated precipitation remained below the long-term average (1989-2012).

In 2017, total cereal production is forecast at about 164 000 tonnes, 6 percent below the harvest of the previous year and the five‑year average. While domestic cereal production is limited by landscape, agricultural production, particularly fruits and vegetables, it is important in terms of GDP contribution and employment. Out of a total agricultural area of 332 000 hectares, 230 000 are cultivated. Some 113 000 hectares are irrigated. The agricultural sector employs only 6 percent of the total labour force, but it is a primary source of income and employment especially in rural areas where it reaches up to 25 percent of the labour force and 80 percent of the local GDP.

The Syrian crisis disrupted trade routes to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Iraq, drastically impacting Lebanese exports of agricultural products to these lucrative markets. Exports of fresh produce (mainly fruits and potatoes), are particularly affected. The closure of the last border crossing between the Syrian Arab Republic and Jordan in March 2015 forced Lebanese exporters to rely on the more expensive seas shipment, resulting in a dramatic increase in transport costs and a significant loss of market shares, particularly in the Gulf and Iraqi markets.

Cereal import requirement remains high in 2017/18

Domestic cereal production covers on average about 17 percent of the consumption needs and the country depends heavily on imports. In the 2017/18 marketing year (July/June), the cereal import requirements, mainly wheat for human consumption and maize for livestock and poultry, are forecast at 1.6 million tonnes, slightly below the previous year, but 20 percent above the average of the last five years. Increased import requirements are in part supported by higher food consumption caused by population increases.

In May 2017, the yearly general inflation was 4.3 percent, while the food and non‑alcoholic beverages inflation was 5.3 percent, up from the negative levels recorded since 2015 supported by higher commodity prices. The Consumer Protection Department at the Ministry of Economy and Trade sets the price of local Lebanese flat bread. Other bakery products (baguettes, sandwich bread, etc.) are not subsidized.

Lebanese response plan to Syrian refugee crisis

As of June 2017, over 1 million Syrian refugees were registered with UNHCR in the country, the same figure as in January 2016. Since the beginning of the civil unrest in the Syrian Arab Republic in March 2011, the influx of refugees into Lebanon steadily increased until January 2015 when the Government introduced the new entry and residency rules for Syrian nationals, in addition to the new rules on work permits in the sectors where Syrian nationals have long been working, such as agriculture and construction.

In November 2016, the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP) 2017-2020 estimated that there are 3.3 million people in need of assistance in the country, including 1.5 million vulnerable Lebanese, 1.5 million displaced Syrians (many not registered) and 300 000 Palestinian refugees.