Tuesday, October 23, 2007

International Potato year

It's the international Year of the Potato, and it's been a great harvest in the Bekaa plain of Lebanon. Sure enough, neighbors have been closing their borders in order to protect their own farmers: Syria has closed its borders to Lebanese potatoes for 18 days and the (resigned) minister of agriculture has been expanding lots of energy trying to reopen them. Syria is however letting transit potatoes in, on their way to the Gulf. The reason? Like each year, Syria is hiding behind the potential threat of potato brown rot, a terrible disease, to prevent the implementation of the Arab Free Trade agreement that would normally keep borders open. But where did Syria get this idea from? Oh from none other than our other neighbors, political allies of the government, free trade aficionados, signatories of the EU free trade agreement and creators of the concept of non-tariff trade barriers: the European Union, which is expanding at least as much political efforts as Syria to make Lebanon a free and sovereign country. Apparently (and I am quoting the minister here) the origin of the brown rot excuse is an incorrect, false, erroneous European report which has been used for years to block entry of Lebanese potatoes to the EU, our friendly neighbors.

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