Lebanon has secured access for apple exports to the Iraqi, Libyan and Egyptian markets, officials said Tuesday, adding that clamping down on pesticide residue and quality packaging were key to opening new markets.
"The Agriculture Ministry is now offering free tests on chemical residue and is giving a health certificate for exporters," Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said in a news conference.
Hajj Hasan said the government was keen to tap the Libyan and Iraqi markets in addition to Egypt, which imports most of Lebanon's apple exports.
Energy and Water Minister Gebran Bassil, who also spoke at the news conference, said Lebanon needed to build more water dams, adding that irrigated agricultural land had fallen from 70 percent to 50 percent.
Head of the Investment Development Authority of Lebanon Nabil Itani said the quality of Lebanese products has risen sharply. "Only 1 to 1.5 percent of shipped Lebanese agricultural produce is turned down and those rejected are because of cooling or packaging requirements," he said.
Itani urged exporters to tap new markets, including Russia and Iraq, both of which are promising markets for Lebanese agricultural goods.
Iraqi, Egyptian and Libyan officials, who also attended the meeting, vowed to step up trade ties with Lebanon. "We had a spectacular success with regard to the opening of the Egyptian market to Lebanese apples and only a handful of shipments were rejected out of 2000," said Saad Sheikh, the Egyptian trade attaché in Lebanon.
Ahmad Alsheikhi, who represented Libyan importers at the event, said the recent opening of a maritime trade route between the two countries was important to boosting bilateral trade.
"Transportation was a major barrier but we recently managed to overcome it after the direct route between Beirut and Benghazi, which has three to four trips a month, was opened," he said.