The agricultural sector [in Lebanon] is bracing for extensive damage from the harsh winter storm sweeping across Lebanon, said the Farmers Association Monday, lamenting the absence of any formal compensation framework.
“The storm will wreak havoc on banana and citrus trees as well as greenhouses. It is a disaster,” head of the association Antione Howayek told The Daily Star.
Citrus farmers, many of whom have not yet picked their produce from trees,  will be facing millions of dollars in losses, he added. Banana farmers will lose many trees to the storm.
Damage, he said, has already been high in many areas but it is too early to estimate a total.
The stormy weather is expected to continue most of the week as wind speeds reach 80 kilometers per hour with snow expected as low as 300 meters above sea level and temperatures to plummet across the country.
Floods are another major concern for farmers, Howayek added, citing instances in the Bekaa Valley and other areas where wheat plantations were devastated over the past two days.
While little can be done to protect plantations against the storm, Howayek said the major problem is that compensation in Lebanon lacks any formal legal structure.
He said most compensation given to farmers by the Higher Relief Council after storms in the past few years served political and electoral ends.
“The most recent compensations were given this year to apple farmers in Dennieh. In thank you speeches the 3,000 families pledged to repay the prime minister in the upcoming elections,” he said. “This is no less than an electoral bribe.”
Howayek also criticized the Agriculture Ministry’s plans for an agricultural disaster fund, which is expected to start receiving applications from farmers next month.
“The fund will be just another failed cooperative and people close to the minister have already taken charge of it,” he said.
He said the Farmers Association instead insisted on its demand to create a state-owned agricultural insurance company.
The draft law creating the company has been shelved in Parliament’s drawers for seven years, he said.