In recent years, Lebanon has emerged as a shining star in the world of grape exports, showcasing remarkable growth and improvements that have captured the attention of both global markets and connoisseurs of fine produce. Nestled along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, this small yet vibrant nation has a rich history of grape cultivation dating back millennia. However, it is the innovative practices, dedication to quality, and a renewed focus on sustainability that have propelled Lebanese grape exports to new heights. In this blog, we will explore the fascinating journey of Lebanon’s grape industry, from its humble beginnings to its current status as a rising star in the global export market, highlighting the factors contributing to its exceptional rise and the exciting developments that lie ahead. Join us as we embark on a flavorful journey through the vineyards of Lebanon and uncover the secrets behind their burgeoning success.
Meet Fadi Sarkis of Natagri: The Grape Pioneer
Lebanese grape exports are undergoing a remarkable transformation, spearheaded by Fadi Sarkis of Natagri. Unlike most Lebanese grapes that traditionally find their way to Gulf States or Asia, Fadi is on a mission to conquer the European market. He has diligently educated himself about European market requirements by attending trade shows in Berlin and Madrid, demonstrating his commitment to this exciting venture.
First Stop: The Netherlands and Beyond
In 2015, Fadi planted the seeds of Natagri, armed with a wealth of insights into European grape preferences. He spared no expense, mastering every European requirement, from grape varieties to packaging. Cultivation management became his mission. It wasn’t a walk in the park; it demanded time, sweat, and more than a few dollars because, let’s face it, Lebanon doesn’t have all the necessary inputs. But was it worth it? Absolutely. The European market, with its proximity, size, structure, ethics, and intriguing demand in the final three months of the year, proved to be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Strength in Unity: The Power of Collaboration
Fadi understands why other growers and exporters lean towards the Gulf States and Asia. After Saudi Arabia closed its doors, they found solace in selling free varieties there, albeit indirectly. Yet, Fadi is on a mission to unite these grape connoisseurs. He envisions strength in numbers, a united front conquering the European market.
The Crimson Gem: A Taste of Lebanese Excellence
Let’s talk grapes. Lebanese growers produce a staggering 130,000 tons annually, with 20,000 to 30,000 tons finding homes abroad. Their ace in the hole? Crimson grapes! These beauties shine in the European market, especially during the year-end peak. They’re not the easiest to grow, yielding an average of 30 tons per hectare, but they’re a cash cow.
Investments in Horticulture: A Road Paved with Gold
Selling grapes? A piece of cake. The real challenges lie at the beginning of the supply chain: investments. Money is needed for everything, from expanding farms to selecting the right crops and varieties, mastering cultivation techniques, acing post-harvest practices, and obtaining certifications. Government support? Unreliable. Local investors? Historically more interested in tourism. But Fadi firmly believes that Lebanon is a treasure trove of potential.
Elie Haddad of Farmers Valley: A Grape Revolution
Now, let’s shift our gaze to Elie Haddad of Farmers Valley, the grape grower who’s painting the town purple with his luscious grapes.
Quality Over Quantity: The Winning Recipe
Elie knows it’s not about how much you produce, but the quality you deliver. Lebanese grapes are captivating hearts and palates thanks to the country’s stable climate and fertile soil.
Growing Ambitions: From Small to Grand
Elie may be a small player for now, but he’s dreaming big. He plans to expand his vineyard, introduce new varieties, and even build a packing facility. It’s all about offering the finest grapes and sustainable practices.
Exporting Excellence: A Global Reach
Lebanese grapes are claiming their moment on the international stage. Despite logistical hurdles and currency fluctuations, exports reign supreme over the local market. Grapes from Lebanon are making waves in markets like Malaysia and Singapore, commanding premium prices due to their exceptional quality.
Lebanese grape exports are on an exhilarating journey, led by visionaries like Fadi Sarkis and Elie Haddad. It’s not just about grapes; it’s a story of success, unity, and a sweeter tomorrow. Keep your eyes peeled for these crimson gems – they’re the stars of the Lebanese grape revolution!