Lebanon – food security in the Near East
Experts have drawn attention of the public to the current crisis in the Lebanese agricultural sector. Problems have appeared in food production, processing and distribution sectors, impacting the tourist industry in the country. In 2014 the government in Beirut launched a campaign to promote food security in the region by increasing food production efficiency in the agricultural sector.
Inspectors rolling up their sleeves
The rising frequency of food poisoning incidents in the region did not escape the attention of the government of Lebanon. As a result, the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health launched a series of inspections on farms, at restaurants, in slaughterhouses and supermarkets in November 2014. Next, the public learned the names of about 1000 places which did not live up to the national standard of quality and had to close. Other facilities which had been checked were obliged to display the report from the inspection at the entrance so that it would be visible to potential patrons and customers.
The need for clear regulations
According to restaurant owners, the problems had appeared due to lack of clear and uniform regulations and supervisory procedures established by the government. For years, it was the businesspeople who had laid down the procedures concerning the standards of food safety, processing and serving. The proposed law regulating agricultural production comprehensively – including processing, storage and transportation to shops and restaurants – had been presented to the parliament as far back as 1995. A new bill was voted in by the parliament in January 2015, but it still has not taken force.
Untapped agricultural potential
According to data published by U.S. Agency for International Development, Lebanon is the country in the Near East with the highest ratio of arable land per person. However, agriculture still accounts for a modest part of the national GDP. In order for this to change, food security in the country needs to be improved. As the volume of agricultural production grows, the quality of agricultural produce must improve as well.