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The 2024 wheat harvest is being hampered by the ongoing conflict in the South

  • Key Message Update
  • Lebanon
  • May 2024
The 2024 wheat harvest is being hampered by the ongoing conflict in the South

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Overall, population groups of concern include the remaining civilian population in villages along the conflict frontlines and displaced households in southern Lebanon with limited access to typical sources of food or income following a below-average harvest in southern Lebanon. Additionally, high food prices and limited labor opportunities are expected to keep household purchasing capacity low despite the ongoing harvest. Refugee populations are also of high concern, with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes likely emerging in some areas of Mount Lebanon and some areas of the South, as many Lebanese and refugee households have limited access to income and food due to persisting poor macroeconomic conditions compounded by the ongoing conflict and limited humanitarian assistance. In the North, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to emerge with the start of the cereal harvest season, improving food access, but Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist through at least September in areas where refugees are a large share of the population, such as Akkar and Bekaa regions, due to limited access to casual labor opportunities for income for food purchases. 
    • Ongoing cross-border fighting between the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and Hezbollah has displaced just over 94,000 people in southern Lebanon, with about three-quarters of the IDPs from Bint Jbeil district in El Nabatieh. Most IDPs are fleeing to safer parts of El Nabatieh, to the South and Mount Lebanon governates. In May, Israeli airstrikes reached areas near Baalbek and targeted the town of Majdal Anjar and the village of Safri in the eastern Beqaa valley. Over 80 percent of IDPs are currently living in host settings across the country. Over the past seven months, the ongoing cross-border violence has resulted in 88 civilian deaths and around 1,159 injuries, according to the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health. The Ministry of Agriculture has also estimated that 1,240 hectares of land have been damaged and 340,000 farm animals lost since October 2023, with 72 percent of surveyed farmers in conflict-affected areas reporting a loss of income since October 8, 2023.
    • Many farmers in southern Lebanon, specifically in Marjayoun and Hasbaya, have begun an early wheat harvest to avoid losing their crops to wildfires from airstrikes and phosphoric bombs near their land, according to local reports. Both districts normally provide the domestic market with around 30 percent of its annual wheat requirements; however, the Ministry of Agriculture estimates that only around 300,000 dunums (30,000 hectares) of wheat were cultivated nationally, with an expected yield of 125,000 tons, which is about 10 percent lower than USDA's estimate. There are also reports of limited availability of agricultural labor in southern Lebanon, especially in frontline border villages where many daily workers have already left or continue to avoid working in the fields for fear of being targeted by airstrikes. Some farmers in Marjayoun have also reported having limited access to harvesting equipment as large farm owners in nearby Beqaa Valley have been hesitant to rent equipment due to the ongoing conflict. As a result, many farmlands have either not been cultivated or are not getting harvested for the 2024/25 marketing year. Conversely, there is increased competition for casual labor opportunities in the North as the harvest begins, as income-earning opportunities are limited. 
    • The protracted economic and financial crisis over the past five years has led to the de facto dollarization of the Lebanese economy despite the Banque du Leban's efforts to stabilize the Lebanese pound at 89,500 pounds to the dollar, which has slowed inflation rates in recent months. However, prices continue to rise despite the stable exchange rate. According to the World Bank, poverty has risen to 44 percent over the past decade, with households increasingly drawing down on personal savings, seeking assistance from multiple sources, borrowing, and cutting back on expenditures. According to key informants, poor households predominantly work in informal employment to earn income for food purchases. 
    • Inbound tourism has fallen 13.5 percent year on year during the first quarter of 2024, mainly due to Western tourists staying away amid a heightened state of alert since October 2023. Record-low activity in Lebanon's tourism industry in the spring, driven by ongoing wider regional conflict, has likely reduced access to income for poor refugee and Lebanese households who normally depend on seasonally improved income from informal casual labor opportunities such as construction, hotel maintenance, housekeeping, and cleaning services. Despite an uptick in Arab tourists arriving in Lebanon over the recent Easter and Ramadan holidays (March-May), including from Qatar, Kuwait, and Iraq, and the continued presence of NGO workers and diplomats, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nationals are increasingly discouraged from visiting Lebanon. Fewer tourists are placing further financial strain on hotels, cafes, and restaurants, among other local businesses that have been increasingly faced with business challenges such as the lack of credit lines and increased reliance on cash transactions since 2019. 
    • In the North and South, most households continue seeking employment in agriculture or construction. Still, limited opportunities and increased competition are restricting poor refugee and Lebanese households' access to these primary and secondary sources of income during the current agricultural season amid reported cuts to humanitarian food assistance since January 2024. In May, some poor agricultural households, particularly in the North, are likely enjoying seasonally improved access to income from daily labor wages and other income-earning opportunities on the farms of better-off households, as well as access to food from own crop production, coinciding with the start of the cereal harvest season. Conversely, in the South, poor agricultural households' reliance on market food purchases remains higher than normal due to the impact of the conflict on the 2023/24 agricultural season and lower than normal economic activity despite limited seasonal improvements in food access with the harvest.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Lebanon Key Message Update May 2024: The 2024 wheat harvest is being hampered by the ongoing conflict in the South, 2024.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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