Thursday, April 5, 2007

Support to the Lebanese farmers? Not this government!

A few weeks ago, the Arab Socio-Economic Council agreed to exceptionally lift the GAFTA free trade rules on Lebanon and to allow the Lebanese government to place some seasonal restrictions on the import of fruits and vegetables (the Agricultural Calendar). This was meant as a show of solidarity with Lebanese farmers after the Israeli war on Lebanon in July 2006. Minister of Trade Sami Haddad gloated about this achievement in the media and attributed it to his unique negotiating skills. I thought then that this was really a (welcome) surprise as Haddad would rather be crucified than commit blasphemy against the Free Market, and provide any form of support to the farming community. Sure enough, he reneges his own doing at the first opportunity, and blames the Calendar for the food price hike in Lebanon (caused by his hoarding merchant pals). But Antoine Howayyek, the head of the farmer's union wouldn't let him get away with it. A man to watch, Howayyek.

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