BEIRUT — The Syndicate of Food Importers in Lebanon released a statement Monday asking Lebanese authorities not alter the exchange rate at which customs taxation is charged on imported foodstuffs, warning that to do so would “harm food security” in the country.
Here is what we know:
• Customs tax continues to be calculated at the official peg of LL1,507.5 to the US dollar, a rate far below the central bank’s Sayrafa platform rate and even farther below the lira’s exchange rate on the parallel market.
• The syndicate’s statement reads, “The syndicate had discussed this issue with Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who was understanding and responsive to the demand, and on this basis, the prime minister’s office was handed a list of basic food commodities that should not be included with products that the customs dollars will increase on.”
• The union warned that “increasing the customs dollar rate on food commodities will inevitably lead to an increase in their prices and a decrease in the ability of around 82 percent of people who are below the poverty line to obtain them.”
• In October, year-on-year inflation for food and non-alcoholic beverages clocked in at 303.66 percent.
• Early last month, Prime Minister Najib Mikati revealed during a meeting at the Economic and Social Council that his cabinet would take a decision on raising the customs dollar rate in its next session as the state needs such tax revenues to pay its dues.
• It remains unclear when Mikati’s cabinet will next convene. It has not held a session since Oct. 12, when its meeting was adjourned following disagreement among ministers on Judge Tarek Bitar’s leadership of the investigation into the 2020 Beirut port explosion.