Lebanon: growers explore shifting from tobacco

Tobacco growers in the South of Lebanon have felt in the past years that growing tobacco is no longer a profitable business, compared to the investment in time and effort needed for its cultivation. Farmers have been searching for a suitable alternative crop, and some have found it in saffron, which is a endemic species to the Mediterranean region.

Research on the cultivation of the so called “red gold” supported the transition for some farmers in the district of Bint Jbeil. Some benefits of this crop is that the water requirement is low and it does not need permanent irrigation, therefore, requiring less of this scarce resource and less attention from the farmer. Growing saffron is recognized as easier and faster than tobacco, while processing it only requires picking the flowers and extracting their stems. Additionally, each season each corm produces several daughter corms, which rapidly increases the density of the crop and translates in a perennial crop that can be maintained for several years, with the corresponding economic saving for the farmers. Moreover, the return of the investment in the market seems to be quite high, compared with the yield of tobacco, as saffron is recognized as the most expensive spice in the world.

This experience is not exempt from challenges, such as the high cost of the saffron bulbs, as well as the slow growing and the time-consuming process of harvesting the flowers and separating the stigmas from them, which makes saffron an expensive spice. Additionally, finding markets to sell the product can be problematic, for which reason cooperative arrangements between several producers is recommended to manage exportation to foreign markets.

This initiative is aligned with the mandate of Article 17 of the WHO FCTC, and similar positive experiences in this regard can also be observed in other Parties to the Convention, such as Afghanistan, according to the information reported by the Party in the WHO FCTC implementation report. Parties that grow tobacco are encouraged to engage and obtain support to transition towards economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing.

For more information, please, contact: Mr Fadi Snan, Ministry of Public Health (email: fadisnan@hotmail.com).

For the latest information on tobacco control in Ukraine, please, see this Party webpage.