Lebanese firms seek subsidies for agricultural and industrial exports
Maritime exports increased by 87 percent following the choking of land exports due to insecurity. (Shutterstock)
The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon has started receiving applications from Lebanese exporters following the government’s recent approval of a $14 million loan to subsidize the maritime export of agricultural produce and industrial goods, a source at IDAL told The Daily Monday.
IDAL Chairman Nabil Itani unveiled last Wednesday the Lebanese Exports Maritime Bridge program, which provides subsidies ranging between $1,750 and $2,250 per truck of exported produce from the Port of Beirut to either Aqaba in Jordan or Duba in Saudi Arabia.
Lebanon’s exports have suffered tremendously in the past three months following the closure of the Nassib border crossing, the last functioning gateway from Syria to Jordan. The crossing was vital for the transportation of goods from Lebanon to major markets in the Gulf countries.
The Lebanese Exports Maritime Bridge program aims at compensating Lebanese farmers and industrialists for the additional costs incurred in the transportation of loaded trucks using maritime shipping.
The source said that IDAL had automatically listed farmers, who are already enrolled in its Agri Plus program, to benefit from the shipping subsidies.
The Agri Plus program was launched in 2013 to provide farmers with the adequate training required to improve the quality of production and packaging, in addition to assisting them in marketing Lebanese goods regionally and internationally.
Likewise, industrialists who apply to IDAL will also be benefiting from shipping subsidies, the source said.
As of last Friday, three industrial establishments have submitted applications to IDAL, the source added.
Leading industrialist and former Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud told The Daily Star that the government’s approval of this new initiative will restore Lebanon’s access to its export markets, given that the subsidies will cover nearly 50 percent of the maritime shipping cost incurred by industrialists.
However, Abboud casted doubt on whether the subsidy plan would boost the competitiveness of Lebanese manufactured goods.
“The government’s decision will restore Lebanon’s access to export markets. However, whether the program is enough to boost the competitiveness of Lebanese products remains a question,” he said.
Veteran industrialist Jacques Sarraf said the Association of Lebanese Industrialists was discussing with the Industry Ministry and IDAL subsidies for the shipping of goods to Iraq, which accounts for close to 25 percent of exported Lebanese manufactured goods.
Lebanon’s agriculture and industrial sectors witnessed a tremendous drop in revenue following the closure of the Nassib crossing.
Lebanese agricultural exports dropped 35 percent while the total volume of land exports went down by 87 percent.
In contrast, maritime exports increased by 87 percent in the second half of 2015.
The source said IDAL has assigned specialized companies to inspect the compliance of both exporters and shipping companies with the terms of the subsidy program.
In line with the program’s implementation mechanism, IDAL will be directly paying shipping companies 50 percent of the transportation fee.
Itani said last week that he expects some 200,000 tons of agricultural produce and some 500 trucks loaded with industrial goods to benefit from the LL21 billion allocation over a period of 7 months.
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