Over 6,000 attended a three-day Lebanese National Food Festival in Beirut that ended on December 9.
"One of Lebanon's many attractions is its food," said Noubia Gribi of ACDI/VOCA which, along with SRI International and Hospitality Services, organized the event, "and this first-ever celebration of food and culture will help achieve even greater appreciation of the country’s products and its hospitality."
The festival was conducted under the patronage of the Ministry of Tourism and with the financial support of the U.S. Agency for International development (USAID).
More than 140 exhibitors ranging from food producers, agribusiness and restaurants to handicraft producers and cultural organization were featured. Visitors sauntered through the souk atmosphere and sampled the best of artisanal food products such as cheeses, preserved fruit, honey, baked goods, and olive oil.
There was more than food. Festivalgoers could enjoy a classic Lebanese movie, dance the dabkeh to live traditional music, smoke nargileh, or shop for crafts. A mock wedding procession shared the festival aisles with a dancing camel. A popular aspect of the event was its "Kids Corner," which each evening attracted more than 200 children. They enjoyed theatrical presentations, cow-milking contests, games, and a lively lesson on the Lebanese flag.
"We hope the festival will become an annual event," said Gribi. "Agriculture represents about 35 percent of the country’s economy, and a key to expansion is raising the income and profitability of small- and medium-scale enterprises in the food sector."
Under ACDI/VOCA's Action for Sustainable Agro-Industry in Lebanon (ASAIL) project, funded by USAID, producers of niche foodstuffs and goat and sheep dairy products are becoming more competitive. They are learning market demands, upgrading technical and management capacity, building supply chain linkages, and integrating service providers into the value chains.
This year the project arranged for Lebanese participation in major food shows all over the world including the Fancy Food Show in New York and ANUGA in Cologne, Germany.
"The international shows are impressive," Gribi said, "but Lebanese entrepreneurs, cooperatives, and small businesses know they can compete. They need a national showcase too."
To learn more about ACDI/VOCA's Action for Sustainable Agro-Industry in Lebanon (ASAIL) project, click here.