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Technical and legislative harmonization for monitoring food security tools in the potato supply chain in Lebanon

Place: lebanon, Asia
Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products Quantitative & qualitative enhancement of crop products
Total Budget: € 146.900,00 | Period: From May 2011 To May 2013

Summary

The Technical and legislative harmonization for monitoring food security tools in the potato supply chain in Lebanon was realized in the framework of the project between Italy and Lebanon titled ”Achieving European standards for quality conformity of Potato production in Lebanon – EuLebPot”. The public institutions as well as, the research institutes, private societies, farmers, were involved, in order to demonstrate the viability and sustainability of the procedure to detect the quarantine potato bacteria and nematodes.

Partnership

Lebanese Agricultural Research lnstitute - Lebanon

Lead applicant

LARI is a governmental organization under Minister of Agriculture Supervision. The institute conducts applied and basic scientific research for the development and advancement of the agricultural sector in Lebanon. In addition, the Institute keeps close ties to the farmers and tries to develop research activities aiming at solving their problems. The LARI has at its disposal eight experimental stations (Tel Amara, Tourbol, Kfardan, Kfarchakhna, Abdeh, Sour, Fanar, Lebaa) in an area of 280 hectares of agricultural land. The stations are located in agricultural areas where subtropical and temperate corps are produced. In These stations research projects are conducted to solve problems facing the agricultural sector in this area. Currently new qualified scientists are being recruited at these agricultural stations after several years of national conflict. The Lebanese Agricultural Research lnstitute is eager to recruit new qualified personnel and attract more financial support in order to face future challenge. International agencies such as FAO. UNDP and ICARDA who sponsored the institute Eviction in the past an CxteCtea tO COntaInS thor sponsored for the local and regional development, and progress.

Assembly of Farmers and Peasants in the Bekaa - Lebanon

Initiative partner

The assembly aimed at defending farmers rights, adopt means and ways to enhance their venture profitability, follow up with the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and other ministries to secure maximum support to the farming community and follow-up on foreign agreements related to agriculture with beneficial returns to farmers. This association includes 1575 farmers, where 85% of them work in the potato sector and they are very much interested in the export of potato production to foreign markets, especially the European markets. In this context, potato farmers are collaborating with MoA and Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute (LARI) through the implementation of good agricultural practices and facilitate phytosanitary assessment of potato crop in Lebanon, particularly for the quarantine of bacterial diseases (brown rot and ring rot), that helps in exporting high quality potato to foreign markets.

Ministry of Agriculture, Lebanon - Lebanon

Initiative partner

Agriculture and marineculture Policy, Assistance and development of Agriculture, Food security

This best practice was realized through the project ”Achieving European standards for quality conformity of potato production in Lebanon – EuLebPot”. It aimed to support and foster quality improvement and phytosanitary safety in the potato sector through reinforcement of the Lebanese network for phytosanitary control, proper legal and procedures frame, technical assistance to the potato producers and a diagnostic laboratory in condition to assess the Lebanese potato safety from the sanitary point of view according to the international standards and the Lebanese-European Union association agreement. This initiative, which supported the MoA and LARI, to amend the existing Lebanese legal framework of potato phytosanitary, within the following Lebanese Institutions: the Department of Quarantine (MoA), the Plant Protection Department (MoA), the analysis laboratory of Tal Amara (LARI), based on EU regulations and in order to justify proper practical procedures.

The main innovations developed by this initiative can be summarized as follows:
1. The improvement of LARI Tal Amara personnel skills in relation to the detection and identification of Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus and Ralstonia solanacearum, the causal agents of the potato ring rot and the potato brown rot, in soil, water and tubers;
2. The improvement of LARI Fanar personnel skills, to perform the EU standard diagnostic protocols for regulated pests (Globodera sp.): extraction procedures and morphological identification of PCN;
3. The drafting of two detailed lab manuals describing the detection procedures for Ralstonia solanacearum and Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus;
4. The improvement of the control level on potato by the laboratories of LARI resulted in a best quality of internal product in the local market, and even in neighbouring Arab countries.

LARI staff skill Improvement During activities implementation, the project gave all the necessary technical support, in order to improve LARI Tal Amara personnel skills according to EU requirements for the detection and identification of Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus and Ralstonia solanacearum, the causal agents of the potato ring rot and the potato brown rot
R. solanacearum isolation This photo represents the isolation of Ralstonia solanacearum on specific medium in the laboratory of bacteriology at Tal Amara station. This kind of laboratory analysis was done for the first time in Lebanon showing improvement of control level on potato
Transfer of technology Modern technology to diagnose potato ring rot and the potato brown rot diseases was transferred to the laboratory of plant bacteriology.

The actual agricultural economy in Lebanon is mainly based on the production activities where olives (fruit and oil), cereals and potatoes represent the main source of income for rural families and agricultural cooperatives spread over the country. The total crop land is 313,000 hectares with 430,000 people are dedicated to agriculture (12% of the total population). Potato import from Egypt is a common practice in Lebanon during the off season, when local production is not available.
Potato production calendar in Lebanon covers the period from March to November and the foreseen quota of 50.000 tons of potatoes to be exported to EU following the Lebanese-EU association agreement, represents an interesting source of income for potato farmers in Lebanon with a potential estimated gross product  of around  9,500,000 up to 12,500,000 Euros. For all these reasons, the potato production sector represents a very important and strategic sector for the country.

Potato farmers in North Bekaa This image represents the cultivation of potatoes, the main source of income for rural families spread across the whole country. This potato field is located in the northern Bekaa of Lebanon. The Head of Department of Plant Protection at Tal Amara Station visiting the field with potato farmers

The initiative has accomplished concrete results detailed as follows:
1. An enhanced performance in laboratory analysis to detect and identify Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus and Ralstonia solanacearum in 4.193 potato samples, obtained from more than 8,300 tons.
2. Three awareness workshops about the main potato phytosanitary issues, such as: nematode detection, laboratory analysis on detecting potato bacteria, and water and soil sampling were held in Lebanon;
3. One training in Italy about  the diagnosis of quarantine bacteria agents, through additional techniques to IF, for the confirmation of positive tests, was held in Italy for two laboratory technicians (LARI, Tal Amara);
4. More than 50 regional phytosanitary inspectors, coming from the main potato producing areas, were trained.
5. The rehabilitation and equipping of the laboratory at LARI Tal Amara Station.

LARI staff training in Italy According to the local needs, a specific training courses was realized in Italy for 2 laboratory technicians (LARI, Tal Amara) for the diagnosis of quarantine bacteria agents, through techniques other than IF, for the confirmation of positive tests. In this image, LARI laboratory technician is applying molecular analysis
Laboratory rehabilitation Within the project activities and after visiting the Italian bacteriology experts, the laboratory of Plant Bacteriology of the Department of Plant Protection at Tal Amara station was rehabilitated according to EU requirements in order to carry out all needed analysis for potato brown rot and ring rot identification based on the EU Directives
MoA inspectors field training Specific support was delivered to MoA inspectors for nematodes soil sampling following European standards and for potato cyst nematodes identification in the field. This image shows the Spanish expert who trained the inspectors of the Ministry of Agriculture to collect soil samples in the field during potato harvesting.

The direct beneficiaries of the initiative belong to different public networks and can be summarized as follows:
1. Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture officers and technicians at different levels and from different departments/offices;
2. Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute researchers and laboratory analysts;
Their main needs were represented by the improvement of application of clear legal framework both on analysis methodologies and on monitoring (systematic surveys) to be applied to the potato production chain, in order to assure the necessary interactions among the involved Lebanese public institutions and the private sector. The second one, was represented by an improvement of systemic control services for phytosanitary certification of potatoes;
3. Other direct beneficiaries were also individual potato farmers and warehouses, potato seed importers and exporters, in addition to indirect beneficiaries, the Lebanese and European potato consumers. 

Check the laboratory procedures at LARI-Tal Amara Check the laboratory procedures at LARI-Tal Amara
Extraction procedures using the Fenwick can method and morphological identi Extraction procedures using the Fenwick can method and morphological identification of PCN
Training of Technical LARI staff Training of Technical LARI staff

The technical staff involved during the implementation of the initiative was represented by 7 officers and experts from public institutions (MoA Beirut), 6 from the research institutions (LARI Tal Amara and LARI Abde), 10 phytosanitary regional officers (MoA Zahle, MoA Abde).

MoA and LARI technical staff Many people working as officers and experts from Ministry of Agriculture (MoA Zahle, Abde and Beirut) and others as researchers and technicians from the research institutions (LARI Tal Amara and LARI Abde) are well trained and involved in this project
Phytosanitary staff of MoA This image shows a technician from MoA collecting soil sample according to EU requirements during potato harvesting period in Central Bekaa.

1. The main constraints faced were the limited human capacity for the control and diagnosis of potato quarantine pathogens. In fact the diagnostic activity for the detection of potato’s bacteria was only partial, since it was not possible to execute other confirmatory tests in case of positive results with biological (symptoms observation) and IF tests, as required by the EU directives.
2. Absence of precise guidelines concerning accurate procedures to adopt and respect for sampling and analysis, the number of samples to test, the requirements for the registration of the different operations, etc. The rules followed before the implementation of this practice, tried to refer to the EU procedures and those were still based on verbal agreement and not on codified protocols. During the implementation of the project, LARI staff was well trained in Italy and additional techniques to the IF for the confirmation of the positive tests were applied at LARI.

Immunofluorescent Test At the beginning of the project,the diagnostic activity for the detection of potato’s bacteria was only partial, conducting simply the immunofluorescent test (IF test). Then, after taking a specific training course in Italy, laboratory analysis for the diagnosis of quarantine bacteria agents were completed according to EU directives
Molecular analysis One of the most important goals of the project was the completion of laboratory tests to detect and confirm the presence of Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus and Ralstonia solanacearum as required from the EU directives. This photos shows the molecular analysis done by LARI technician to confirm the presence of Ralstonia solanacearum in water samples. This test is applied recently at LARI Tal Amara Laboratory after getting the needed training in Italy

This experience led to two kinds of impacts:
1. Environmental impact- (a) the extensive analysis conducted on potato domestic production in the main Lebanese potato production areas such as Akkar and Bekaa regions, showed that these regions are free from potato quarantine pathogens;(b) analysis of surface water in irrigation canals used for potato irrigation tested against brown rot; (c) analysis of water inside the packing potato center where potatoes are washed, selected and packaged for distribution; (d) analysis of sewage water beside potato processing factories for the detection of Ralstonia solanacearum.
2. Economic impact- due to the pest free area achieved, since August 2013 Lebanon can export potatoes to Europe with a quota of 50,000 tons of potatoes, according to the Lebanese-EU agreement. This represents an important source of income for potato farmers in Lebanon with a potential estimated gross value of around  9,500,000 up to 12,500,000 Euros

1. Water harvesting Visits were organized to several irrigation canals designated for potato irrigation.The strategy of water sampling from the canals according the EU Directive, was described to MoA Inspectors because an outbreak of brown rot in a potato field might easily result in contaminating the irrigation water in the canals, with the chance for the pathogen (Ralstonia solanacearum) to spread around the whole area. This photos showed a water harvesting location in Bekaa valley chosen for potato irrigation.
2. Water of packing potato center Potato lots coming from Bekaa are brought to be stored, washed, selected and packaged for distribution. A training was conducted for MoA inspectors to show them where and how to take water samples for lab analysis for the detection of R. solanacearum. Two locations are particularly significant: inside the packing potato centerand outside where water is collected. In this photo, we see the potato processing machines, where potatoes are washed and where water samples might be taken for analysis
Sewage water Sewage water, beside a potato processing factory, where water might be collected for analysisfor the detection of Ralstonia solanacearum

This initiative supported Lebanon to draft the official documents sent to the EU authorities about the full pest status in the country. Thanks to this support, the European Commission published a decision (2013/413/EU ) that grants Lebanon waiver from certain provisions of Council Directive 2000/29/EC and paves the way for the exports of Lebanese potatoes to the European Union. The decision taken by the European Commission allowed imports of ware potatoes not intended for planting, and originated from the two most important Lebanese agricultural production regions of Akkar and Bekaa.

Lebanon Potatoes to EU Lebanon Potatoes to EU - Now possible for Lebanon to export potatoes from Akkar and the Bekaa to the European Union http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/lebanon/press_corner/all_news/news/2013/20130909_2_en.htm

The dissemination activities conducted to spread initiative results were:
1. Two awareness workshops for field inspection and laboratory analysis;
2. One awareness workshop for nematode detection;
3. One awareness workshop focusing on water and soil sampling for brown rot and ring rot detection;
4. Templates for presenting brown rot and ring rot survey results according to EU Directive were prepared.

Lebanon Potatoes to EU - Now possible for Lebanon to export potatoes from Akkar and the Bekaa to the European Union:
http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/lebanon/press_corner/all_news/news/2013/20130909_2_en.htm