Lebanon risks losing agricultural exports to Gulf countries over fears of drug smuggling: expert

2021-04-25 13:35:17 GMT2021-04-25 21:35:17(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

BEIRUT, April 25 (Xinhua) -- Head of the Lebanese Farmers' Association Antoine Howayek said Sunday that Lebanon risks losing its agricultural exports to Gulf countries after Saudi Arabia announced a ban on imports of fruits and vegetables from Lebanon as shipments were used for drug smuggling.

"We export 55 percent of our agricultural produce to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman at the value of 92 million U.S. dollars yearly," Howayek told Xinhua.

Saudi authorities issued a decision to prevent the entry of Lebanon's agricultural products after the Saudi customs managed on Friday to foil an attempt to smuggle over five million Captagon narcotic pills in Saudi Arabia's port of Jeddah from Lebanon.

The Captagon pills were hidden in the shipment of the pomegranate fruit.

Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain, and the UAE said they supported the Saudi ban which came into effect on Sunday. However, they haven't yet specify whether they will issue a similar decision or not.

Howayek warned against losing the country's agricultural exports to other Gulf countries, urging Lebanese officials to seek help from international companies that can supervise the products shipped through Lebanese customs to make sure they are free from drugs.

"Lebanese officials must agree with Saudi authorities on appointing a company tasked with supervising Lebanon's exports in a bid to protect Lebanese agricultural exports to Gulf countries," Howayek said.

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry pledged on Friday to crack down on smuggling drugs in containers or trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables without providing details. Enditem