‘We’re struggling to survive,’ say Lebanese being punished for drugs hidden in fruit

This struck a heavy blow to one of the few sectors of Lebanon’s import-dependent economy to remain productive. Lebanon’s beleaguered farmers – who grow citrus, bananas, pomegranates and other produce for export to the Gulf – fear last week’s drug bust will result in more export bans.

“When you cross all these losses against all the farmers, it’s a huge loss,” said Mr Fayyad.

Hassan Fakih, a farmer who works with the Lebanese Agricultural Union, says they have been unfairly targeted.

“There is no doubt that the main market for Lebanon’s agricultural products was the Gulf states,” he said.

“Some containers that go to Saudi Arabia contain drugs, yes… but we ask the Lebanese state and the Lebanese security agencies to cooperate with the Gulf, to be strict.”

Analysts have suggested that the export ban could be an attempt by Saudi Arabia to undermine Hizbollah’s position in Lebanon, as the Iran-aligned Shiite militant group which dominates the country has profited hugely from its control over the drug trade.

Marwan Fayyad, of the General Workers Union, blamed Hizbollah, the Islamist militant group that dominates Lebanon, for inflicting pain upon its producers.

“It’s because of Hizbollah’s participation in regional wars,” he said, accusing the militant group of involvement in trafficking.

After a decade of civil war, Syrian businessmen close to the regime have turned to Captagon production as one of the few sources of export revenue in the destroyed economy. Hizbollah’s control over key border crossings and ports has enabled it to benefit from the illicit trade.

But Saudi Arabia focusing on the supply side rather than the demand is likely to backfire, according to Caroline Rose, an analyst with the New Lines Institute who has researched the Captagon trade.

“The recent blanket import ban imposed by Saudi Arabia will only amplify the very trade it wishes to curb,” she wrote in Foreign Policy. “By denying all Lebanese producers top export markets… Gulf countries are creating additional space for Hizbollah to manoeuvre and for the illicit drug trade to thrive.”

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