Saudi Arabia on Friday imposed a ban on imports of Lebanese fruit and vegetables into its territory, citing a spike in drug smuggling from Lebanon.
The ban will come into effect on Sunday and will continue until Lebanese authorities provide “adequate and trusted guarantees” to stop “systematic smuggling operations” into the kingdom, Saudi Arabia’s state news agency SPA reported.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it was informed of the Saudi decision and that the foreign minister has referred the issue to higher officials.
“Smuggling drugs in containers or trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables from Lebanon abroad is an act punishable by Lebanese law,” the statement said.
“Drug smuggling harms the economy, the Lebanese farmers and the reputation of Lebanon,” it added.
The statement also called on all security services and customs at the border crossings to make every effort to control all smuggling operations.
The Saudi agency said Saudi authorities noticed increasing attempts by drug smugglers from Lebanon to use the Lebanese products, mainly fruit and vegetable shipments bound for the monarchy or transiting on the way to neighbouring countries, for the illicit trade.
Saudi Arabia will continue to keep a close eye on shipments of other Lebanese products to see if similar measures need to be taken, SPA added.
The ban was announced shortly after Saudi authorities said they had foiled an attempt at the Red Sea port of Jeddah to smuggle around 5.3 million pills of Captagon, a synthetic drug, hidden into a pomegranate shipment coming from Lebanon.