Saturday, February 21, 2009

Laurent d'Arabie

Daily Star, BEIRUT: There is no real economic policy in the field of agriculture in Lebanon, the head of the European Commission Delegation in Beirut said Friday. "We have to start with the basics by giving farmers a legal and administrative status, meaning a system should be set up to created to define the needs of the farmers and then establish a mechanism of general registration for farmers, clarifying the benefits and obligations associated with this registration," Patrick Laurent told The Daily Star.

These remarks came during a press conference held at the Radisson SAS Martinez hotel in Beirut and organized by the Delegation of the European Commission in Lebanon.

The conference was attended by representatives of parliamentary blocs, trade associations and the General Confederation of Lebanese Workers with an aim to discuss the necessary changes that should be undertaken to encourage the development of the Lebanese agricultural sector.

Laurent believes that among the basics that should be created in this sector is to give farmers access to economic advice as to the choice of the production they should develop, in addition to a structure of advice for technical production. He added that farmers should also be given access to classic social benefits like health insurance and education, benefits that are not available now.

"They have to create the basics first and then establish a cooperative network with a good management system, well-trained managers and technicians as well as providing an infrastructure for a modern agriculture," said Laurent.

To maximize the contribution of the agriculture sector and to help farmers, participants in the conference supported the adoption of a new strategy for the sector, backed by a strong political will. The new strategy aims to upgrade sustainable agricultural activities to be profitable and competitive. It also aims at giving attention to the environment and scarce water resources.

Moreover, to ensure agricultural products are competitive and that farmers face fair competition at home, participants endorsed the need to update and enforce safeguarding measures such as anti-dumping especially after the bilateral agreements that Lebanon has signed as a preparation for its accession to the World Trade Organization.

Antoine Hwayek, head of the Lebanese farmers association, stressed on the importance of improving access to credit by reactivating the law stipulating the establishment of an agricultural bank while improving the system KAFALAT.

Hwayek highlighted also the necessity of separating the chamber of agriculture from the chambers of commerce and industry, provided the latter will have the skills and resources to carry out its functions."

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