Lebanon’s exports are already taking a hit this year, brought about by a variety of factors, including the compounding crises and the infamous Saudi import ban. One less-talked-about local product that is facing a decline today is pine seeds.
Lebanon is famous for its dense pine forests that are not only valued for their environmental and ecological significance but also for their harboring of the lucrative pine nut; often described as Lebanon’s “White Gold.”
Every year, Lebanon, whose pine trees comprise 10% of its total forest cover, exports the popular nut to various countries, most notably those of the Arab Gulf, where it Is incorporated into diverse recipes and meals.
Recently, however, pine trees in Lebanon have been facing the threat of western conifer seed bugs that are killing them and, in the process, destroying their precious seeds.
White Gold, at Risk
“I used to produce around 16 tonnes of pine cones, but today I barely harvest 100 kilograms,” Elias Neaimeh, the head of the Syndicate of Pine Seed Farmers, recently told AFP.
The sharp drop in production comes as Lebanon grapples with an unprecedented economic crisis that has already made life in the country a constant challenge.
It is estimated that around 60,000 families in Lebanon rely on pine farming to make their living.
It’s noteworthy that this is not the first year that Lebanon has seen a decline in pine seed production.
According to the latest numbers shared by the Lebanese Agriculture Ministry, Lebanon used to produce nearly 600 tonnes of pine nuts on an annual basis. This has fallen to around 300 tonnes over the past 6 years.
The aforementioned seed bug is one of several factors that have been eating through Lebanese pine trees.
Farmers often find themselves unable to fend off the diseases that infest these trees and dry them out, despite efforts by the Agriculture Ministry to combat these diseases.
Climate change is another major contributor to the decay in pine trees.
Unfortunately, despite “White Gold” being an important source of annual revenue, the state has not been giving it the attention it requires in terms of preserving and protecting pine trees against pests.