Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cotton and hemp

I learned two things in Al Hayat today, but I cant find the links (it has the worst website ever):

One is that Syria produces 55% of the cotton textile it consumes. Apparently cotton is the main Syrian export (and main source of foreign currency) after oil. Syria used to export 70% of its production and manufacture 30%, but this percentage has risen to 55% that is manufactured locally. I read somewhere else (Icarda, I think) that Syria has the highest cotton yields in the world. This year's production was 750,000 tons. I wonder how much better it would do if the US eased its cotton farming subsidies and world prices increased. The latest WTO round on agriculture is being blocked partly because of US cotton subsidies.

The other thing I got from al hayat was the confirmation the the cannabis harvest went on unimpeded in Lebanon this year, the largest harvest since 1992. The Internal Security forces, responsible for eradicating the crop, said: "we wanted to eradicate it, but they threatened us with heavy weapons." The truth is that the government is hanging by a (sectarian) thread and it cannot afford to fight over a livelihoods issue with the Shi'a of the North Bekaa, where most of the hashish is grown. Many maronites also grow it in the area of deir el ahmar in the Bekaa. Estimated value of this years crop: $225 millions. This reminds me that the Lebanese National Center for Scientific Research has re-engaged in the favorite periodic game of the Lebanese government, development organizations and the silly UN. They have formed a committee that is looking for "alternatives" to hashish in the Bekaa. No new ideas here: safflower, sunflower, saffron crops. These formulas have been tried and have dismally failed since the 1960's and I participated in the last trial, in the late 90's early 2000. That's how we created Lebanon's organic sector, a sector that counts 200 farmers tops after 10 years of work. Not to speak of the debacle of the UN Illicit crops replacement program, which was reported to be at best inefficient and at worst profoundly corrupt. Like the farmers of the Bekaa, I tell the LNCSR and the development world: stop wasting taxpayers money-the only alternative to illicit cannabis farming in the Bekaa is to legalize it for medicinal uses, as Turkey has done.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are enough supporters (and weapons) to start a legalization campaign.

But before that, everyone from the UNDP working on replacement crops should be tested for hashish. For the sake of "cohesion" at least, if not honesty. Same goes for the ISF.