Following are remarks by U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, Edward White, at the opening ceremony of the 11th International Conference of Arab Beekeepers Union, and the 10th Conference of the Beekeeping Federation of Mediterranean Countries.
Good morning, General Roukoz, distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. I am delighted to be here with you today to celebrate the opening of these two regional and international honey conferences. Congratulations also on the designation of the National Honey Day which will help promote Lebanon’s world-class honey.
Lebanon has long relied on importing agricultural products such as honey when local producers have the ability to profitably make equal or higher quality honey right here. In our experience, small investments to improve the business environment and increase access to needed technology can effectively address the constraints that limit the potential of small agri-businesses to grow, expand the market for their products, and increase their incomes. This is why for the past six years, the U.S. Government, through USAID, has invested in Lebanon’s agriculture sector. Our Lebanon Industrial Value Chain Development (LIVCD) project alone has facilitated over $100 million in domestic sales and around $20 million in agricultural exports, leveraging over $27 million in investment, and increasing the incomes of thousands of farmers and small businesses.
In the honey sector specifically, USAID has invested around $2.2 million to assist Lebanon to become a major regional producer again, providing a source of income for both rural communities and the country at large. Our assistance has ranged from equipment provision to introducing innovative agricultural practices, training, and facilitating access to markets. These investments have afforded beekeepers access to reliable markets and steady sources of income.
Joint U.S.-Lebanese endeavor has increased the production of over 1,500 beekeepers, provided more than 6,300 new beehives, introduced new production techniques, and linked businesses to buyers. One example is the establishment of queen bee breeding centers and beeswax recycling centers that reduce costs and increase product quality. We applaud new regulations standardizing production and quality requirements, making it easier for honey producers to certify their products, according a recognized standard. Since our partnership began, sales from small and medium size enterprises increased by 41% to $6.3 million. Impressively, $2.3 million of those sales have been to consumers abroad. Honey sales by small beekeepers increased by an even larger amount–almost $10 million–and sales continue to grow.
But much remains needs to be done. Our honey sector experience demonstrates that agriculture and agro-food processing are major, unrealized sources of economic opportunity. We will therefore continue to invest in food production because we believe the agriculture sector in Lebanon is well-placed to provide quality products and well-paying jobs. But we cannot do it alone. We hope the partners here today with us see the impact that increased government support to this sector can have on the lives of everyday people.
I want to thank all of our local partners, because it is the private sector and entrepreneurs such as yourselves that drive economic prosperity. We are proud to work with you to continue to advance the dream of a Lebanon that is more prosperous tomorrow.