Saudi Arabia will ban fruits and vegetables originating from Lebanon from entering or passing through the kingdom due to an increase in drug smuggling, Reuters reported Saudi state media saying today.
The measure could increase economic pressure on Lebanon, already on the verge of financial collapse because of a shortage of foreign currency.
State news agency SPA quoted the Saudi authorities as saying Lebanon had failed to take practical measures to stop the smuggling. The ban will take effect from 9:00am local time on Sunday and last until Lebanese authorities provide "sufficient and reliable" guarantees they will take the necessary measures to stop systematic drug smuggling in Saudi Arabia.
There was no immediate comment by Lebanon's government or the agriculture minister. One Lebanese official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the ban appeared to be political.
"The export of Lebanese vegetables and fruits to the Gulf countries and especially the kingdom was one of the few doors that were still open to bring dollars into the country. Closing this import line increases pressure on Lebanon," he said.
Lebanon's total imports to Saudi Arabia were worth 273.1 million riyals ($72.82 million) in the fourth quarter of 2020, official Saudi data showed.
Lebanon is in the throes of a deep financial crisis that is posing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war. The currency has lost around 90 per cent of its value and dollars are scarce.
The crisis is being compounded by political deadlock, with politicians unable to form a government to unlock much-needed foreign aid.