Small farmers decide to switch to growing cannabis as the cost of imported fuel, seeds, fertilisers and pesticides priced in dollars has skyrocketed.
BAALBEK, Lebanon – For three decades Abu Ali planted potatoes to provide for his family, but Lebanon’s economic crisis has driven up production costs and forced him to swap the crop for cannabis.
“It’s not for the love of hashish”, the 57-year-old told AFP in the eastern Baalbek region, the heart of Lebanon’s illicit cannabis industry.
“It’s just less expensive than other crops… and allows you to live with dignity”.
Lebanon is in the throes of a spiralling economic crisis compounded by the coronavirus pandemic.
As the value of the local currency plunges on the black market, the cost of imported fuel, seeds, fertilisers and pesticides priced in dollars has skyrocketed.
More and more small farmers, who were already in dire straits before the crisis, are deciding to grow cannabis instead.
“With agriculture, we were always losers”, said Abu Ali, who asked to use a pseudonym over security concerns.
After decades of neglect by the state, many of Abu Ali’s colleagues are now indebted to banks or loan sharks and have had to sell land or property to settle dues.
To avoid the same fate, Abu Ali in 2019 started cultivating hashish, or cannabis resin, which costs four times less to produce than potatoes or green beans.
It also requires less water and fertiliser, while strong market demand means he can rake in a stable income for the first time in years.
“When we planted vegetables we couldn’t even buy fuel for heating”, Abu Ali said.