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Conflict Incident Report
Lebanese apple farmers demand compensation, threaten to escalate protests
Apple farmers protested across Lebanon, demanding that the state compensate them as was agreed last year under former Prime Minister Tammam Salam's government.
"We were promised our rightful compensation," an apple farmer near the vegetable market told local television channel MTV. "Where is it?"
"If we do not get it in 10 days, we will take our tractors, head to Beirut, and go on strike," he added. "They will not fool us."
Farmers in Nahr Ibrahim and Halat in north Lebanon took to the streets as well.
Meanwhile, farmers held a rally on Damour highway, south of Beirut, and distributed apples to motorists and passers-by.
The protesters demand that the government "protect the farmer and support him rather than inflict losses on the industry."
Apple farmers in the north Bekaa town of Nabi Othman briefly blocked the main Baalbeck-Hermel main road.
They called on President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri, and Speaker Nabih Berri to compensate them "as they already are [living] below the poverty line."
Apple farmers from Bsharri and Tannourine, however, canceled a protest that had been scheduled for Thursday in Chekka, also in north Lebanon.
Secretary-General of the Higher Relief Committee Maj. Gen. Mohammad Kheir Wednesday said in a statement that "at the behest of Prime Minister Saad Hariri and after the review of Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil during the past few days, the Minister approved the decision to transfer funds intended to aid farmers."
Kheir added that the funds will be transferred to the Higher Relief Committee, which will in turn handle the "administrative and financial measures" to ensure that the farmers are paid.
In September, the Lebanese Farmers’ Association called on the state to support the apple season by paying LL8,000 ($5.30) in return for each box weighing 20 kilograms, due to their financial losses.
Following the protests in late 2016, the former government agreed to take on a series of measures, including a compensation of LL5,000 ($3.30) for every 20 kilogram box.
Former agriculture minister Akram Chehayeb responded by contacting Jordanian and Egyptian authorities to increase apple exports by the end of October 2016.
Chehayeb also announced a decision that would block companies from importing apples, pears, and potatoes without obtaining a license.
On Monday, the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Climate Change and Environment announced that they would impose a ban on Lebanese apples starting on May 15, due to their “pesticide residues in excess of permissible limits."
“Many of these residual chemicals, especially derivatives of chlorinated pesticides are capable of bioaccumulation and can build up to harmful levels in the body as well as on the environment,” the ministry said in a statement.