FAO says war costs Lebanon agriculture $280 million

Rome, Nov 27 | Updated: Nov 28 2006, 05:30am hrs
Conflict in Lebanon this summer cost the countrys agriculture, fisheries and forestry industry around $280 million and left many farmers heavily indebted, according to a UN damage assessment report issued on Monday.

The conflict between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas hit agriculture directly, with crops, livestock and equipment damaged by the bombing, the United Nations Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organisation said.

Israeli bombardments were directed mainly at southern Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut, among the countrys poorest areas. Agriculture accounts for almost 70% of total household income in southern Lebanon. The biggest economic losses were due to the lack of access to fields during the 34 days of fighting that erupted after Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on July 12.

The period corresponded to the peak time for the harvest of some crops mainly stone fruit and potatoes destined for export. Reuters

According to FAO, much of this years harvest perished on the ground as bombing forced farmers to abandon their land and as transport to market became impossible.

Many fields and pastures have also been rendered useless until unexploded bombs can be removed. In southern Lebanon an estimated 25% of cultivated land is inaccessible because of that. Total damage to the crop production sector is estimated at around $232 million, according to FAO. With the loss of income from harvests and lost animal produce, many farmers have become heavily indebted as they usually repay their debts during the May to October harvest period to secure credit for the following production season, FAOs Anne Bauer said.

This year, their ability to repay these debts has been reduced to the minimum, making it impossible to start the new cropping cycle due to the lack of working capital, she said.

Some 3,050 head of dairy cattle, 1,250 bulls, 15,000 head of goats and sheep, 18,000 beehives and over 600,000 broilers were lost as a direct result of the hostilities.

For fisheries, FAO higlighted the destruction of infrastructure and equipment in the port of Ouzaii, and the loss of 328 boats with their gear. Targeting of trout farms at Hermel in the Bekaa Valley also caused losses of about 300 tonnes of fish. In the forestry sector the damage is estimated at $16 million, mainly due to the inability to address forest fires during the conflict. FAO said it was seeking $17 million to help farming communities in the south of the country. Providing seed and seedlings, fertiliser and small irrigation equipment was a priority to help restart farming, it said.