One third of Lebanese food & beverage production is exported
The Food and Beverages (F&B) sector comprises the largest number of industrial establishments, with 1,219 producers, accounting for 18.2 percent of the total industrial enterprises, according to ‘The Food and Beverages Sector: Position, Problems and Prospects’, published recently by the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture in Beirut and Mount Lebanon (CCIAB).
Of these companies, 574 are registered members in the four chambers: 280 (nearly 50 percent of producers) are registered in the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Chamber. These companies employ 17,149 workers, with a total registered capital standing at around $290 million. Around 79 percent of the producers are small and medium enterprises.
Another 137 are registered in the Zahle Chamber, 86 in the Saida Chamber and 71 in the Tripoli Chamber.
Food processing enterprises produce a variety of food and beverages including alcoholic beverages, confectionery, bakery products, olive oil, pickles, preserves, spices, condiments, and processed and canned fruits and vegetables.
Bakeries represent 48 percent of the F&B sector, and comprise 160 establishments. The sweets industry accounts for 22 percent, and the processing and preservation subsector constitutes about four percent of the total.
F&B production is mainly sold locally with sales amounting at $1,655 million. Total F&B exports reached $500 million last year, accounting for 18 percent of the country’s total exports in 2017, according to Customs. The largest export component of this category is the prepared vegetables and fruits, and nuts.
The main export destinations of agro-food are: Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the US, which bought 16, 12, eight, and seven percent of the sector’s total exports, respectively.
The F&B trade deficit stood at $1.4 billion in 2017. Imports of F&B reached $1.9 billion in 2017. The main suppliers include France (eight percent of imports), Turkey (seven percent), KSA, and Germany.
Imports exceed exports for all categories except the preparations of vegetables, fruits and nuts, which recorded a trade surplus of $26 million. The highest deficit corresponds to dairy products, and totaled $310.4 million.
According to the report, the purchasing behavior of consumers reflects the trend towards healthy and organic food. People are constantly questioning the source of raw materials in their food products, and prefer sealed products that display nutrition information clearly on the package. Home delivery and online shopping are in high demand. Consumers want to make sure that F&B producers are implementing best practices in the production process.