(Image Credit: Twitter/@abdulmhsn1)
Saudi Arabia on Thursday announced that it was banning the entry of Lebanese fruits and vegetables from entering the kingdom effective Sunday, April 25 as of 9 am over alleged smuggling of drugs. The announcement was made after Saudi Customs at Jeddah Islamic Port caught an imported shipment from Lebanon attempting to smuggle 5 million pills of Captagon [amphetamine] packed inside the fruits. Mohammed bin Ali Al-Naim, the undersecretary of the Customs Authority for Security Affairs, told Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the drugs were camouflaged inside the pomegranate shipment imported from Lebanon. Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior, separately said that he will monitor all imports to Saudi Arabia through Lebanon. “The Kingdom’s security is a red line,” Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud said in a tweet.
أمن المملكة خط أحمر ،، https://t.co/8Ycx2w8wsX— عبدالعزيز بن سعود بن نايف Abdulaziz bin Saud (@AbdulazizSNA) April 23, 2021
The kingdom said that the shipment of illegal drugs has drastically increased in the recent past from Lebanon through the road passage on grocery trucks. In response to Saudi’s ban and reports of smuggling, the Foreign Ministry of Lebanon said that shipping drugs “is damaging to the Lebanese economy, to the Lebanese farmers, and to Lebanon’s reputation.”
“Lebanese authorities must exert utmost efforts to control all smuggling operations to prevent harm to innocent citizens, farmers, industrialists, and the Lebanese economy,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The ministry ordered the Lebanese customs authorities to launch a probe into the matter and investigate the trucks bound for the kingdom. Lebanon lamented Saudi’s decision, saying that the ban will degrade its economy even further amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Agricultural exports are a major source of income in foreign currency for the cash-strapped Lebanese government. Due to the pandemic ravaging the country’s economy, Lebanon’s currency devaluated by 85 percent of its value to the dollar. The local businesses and banks were shuttered under the COVID-19 restrictions.
Arab nations, including Saudi Arabia, are one of the major export markets of agricultural products for Lebanon, accounting for nearly 80 percent of total exports, an estimated $190 million last year. Saudi Arabia government ordered a ban indefinitely until Lebanon offered the guarantees to stop “systematic smuggling aimed at the kingdom,” the kingdom said in the statement. It added that Saudi will, henceforth, place the Lebanon shipments under strict scrutiny.