Lebanon’s trade deficit widened  by 2.525 percent in 2013 compared to 2012 as exports fell by more than $480 million, the Customs Department said Monday.
According to data released by the department, the trade deficit in 2013 reached $17.292 billion, compared to a deficit of $16.797 billion in 2012.The report did not explain the reasons behind the widening trade deficit or why exports fell by such a significant amount.
However, analysts attribute the fall in total exports to the ongoing Syrian crisis, which has blocked access to land routes for Lebanese exports.
Prior to the start of the conflict nearly three years ago, Lebanese industrialists and farmers shipped most of their goods through Syria.
Efforts to secure cheap and safe alternative routes for Lebanese exports have had little success.
Caretaker Industry Minister Vreij Sabounjian has been seeking new markets for Lebanese made goods and has urged industrialists not to count on the Cabinet alone to expand their businesses beyond Lebanese borders.
He and the Industrialists Association have succeeded in arranging transport for the bulk of Lebanese goods by sea, although this route is more expensive than the land routes.
Among the main imported items in 2013 were live animals, vegetables, fats and edible fats, oil, prepared foodstuff, mineral products, plastic and chemical products, cars, machinery and fuel oil.
Among the main exported items were machinery, minerals, textiles, jewelry and agricultural produce.
The customs said that 73 percent of the imports came through Beirut Port , followed by 18 percent through Beirut’s airport and 5 percent through the Tripoli port.
Lebanese exports also passed mainly through Beirut Port, followed by Beirut’s airport and the Masnaa crossing point.
China became the leading source of goods imported into Lebanon, followed by Italy, France, the United States and Germany.
As for exports, Syria became the leading importer of Lebanese-made goods, followed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Iraq, Switzerland and Iraq.
The Lebanese state generated LL2.259 trillion ($1.5 billion) from Customs duties in 2013, the largest source of earning for the government, registering an increase of 3 percent compared to 2012.
Value added tax revenues generated from the Customs Department in 2013 reached LL2.120 trillion, a drop of 4 percent compared to 2012.
Total fees collected from all the airport and port routes in 2013 stood at LL364.891 billion, with Beirut Port grabbing the lion’s share of fees at LL162.379 billion.