Farmers won’t release crops without price update

The head of Lebanon’s tobacco union said Tuesday farmers would not release this year’s crops until new pricing was issued that would meet the needs of agricultural workers.

Tobacco farmers will not release their crops this year until after the issue of the new price list that should address the demands and hardships of the farmers,” Hasan Fakih said in a statement Tuesday, adding that farmers’ problems were not with Lebanon’s Tobacco Regie but with the Finance Ministry.

Dry tobacco

Dry tobacco

“The farming of tobacco represents a national sector that provides minimum-wage jobs for farmers in the south, Akkar [north Lebanon] and the Bekaa [east].” Fakih said.

The union leader also noted that the number of people working in the field had shrunk considerably, falling to 800 individuals from 2,400.

In September, the Union of Tobacco Farmers voiced support for a nationwide strike scheduled by the General Labor Confederation for Oct. 12, urging Lebanon’s largest labor group to include farmers’ concerns in its list of demands.

It called on the Finance Ministry to increase the crop’s prices by 30 percent, arguing that prices have not been updated since 1996. Their costs of living have since then risen by 120 percent, they claim, echoing a statistic frequently used by the GLC.

The group is calling on the government to more than double minimum wages, from LL500,000 to LL1.2 million, a change that would correct disparities between living costs and income levels, the group said.

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