The role of SMEs in the Lebanese economy is significant, constituting 95% of businesses and employing over 800.000 people. MSMEs and SMEs are a major potential driver of economic growth. Economic revival and sustainable growth are key priorities of the Lebanese government, hence the Ministry of Economy and Trade developed a SME Strategy to foster this potential. Issues hindering the Lebanese SMEs, especially in the agricultural sector, are the lack of small producers’ negotiating power, of formal mechanism to access new markets or diversify product based on market requirements, of inability to produce the required amount of products and inefficient production processes, high input and electricity costs and a lack of skilled labour.
ICON-INSTITUT contributed to the Lebanese economic development and job creation by enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of SMEs producing cherries and table grapes in Zahlé and West Bekka. The table grapes are exported to the gulf countries and domestic markets. Low capacity throughout the value chain, require potential interventions across all aspects of the value chain. ICON’s support to the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Zahlé enabled it to set up a Value Chain Information System, including mapping of stakeholders, international sector trends, and communication of local and regional market price information, including wholesale and retail prices, notably via SMS. Concerning marketing strategies, ICON has helped in raising the profile of the regional table grape and cherry producers, including packaging, labelling, and branding, identifying new market opportunities and key oversees target markets, as well as organising participation in national and international exhibitions.