Market overview

Lebanon has been in lockdown since 30 July after the country witnessed a spike in coronavirus cases. The government has implemented several other measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, including banning large gatherings and requiring the wearing of masks at all times except when exercising.

On the evening of 4 August, Lebanon's capital, Beirut, witnessed a series of massive explosions at its port, resulting in casualties and extensive damage to many parts of the city. This has exacerbated Lebanon’s political and economic issues alongside the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Prime Minister Hasan Diab and seven other ministers resigning as a result of the port explosions and their political fallout. A new prime minister was appointed on 31 August, but a new cabinet is yet to be appointed.

Lebanon's Hariri International Airport reopened on 1 July with an initial limited daily capacity of 2,000 passengers. All travellers arriving in Beirut are required to comply with testing and potential self-isolation measures. Individuals with Lebanese nationality or residency can enter the country with no restrictions.

Some public markets, banks, pharmacies, restaurants, parks and other facilities have started to reopen, although many have been affected by the port explosions and subsequent supply chain disruptions.

Economy and trade

The main burden on Lebanon's economy stems from the deep financial crisis that predates COVID-19 in the country, which has led to restricted bank transfers and withdrawals and devalued the national currency by some 100% since October 2019.

Consumers have complained that the prices of basic commodities have surged to alarming levels since the sharp drop of the lira against the US dollar. The shutdown of most businesses due to COVID-19 has exacerbated the problem further.

Risks of a 'haircut' (a percentage reduction in value) on bank deposits – in addition to the de-facto devaluation of national currency – are very real. Expected negotiation with the IMF for a relief package may ease the markets, but will inevitably come with substantial socio-economic effects.

Government response

The Lebanese government announced an aid plan for extremely poor families – especially for those whose daily jobs were halted – at some 400,000 Lebanese pounds worth of food and vital supplies per household. Despite some logistical issues, these deliveries are now underway.

The central bank issued a series of circulars that addressed lowering commercial interest rates, postponing loans payments, and the ministry of finance granted grace periods regarding fiscal and social security dues on companies.

The Government announced its incapacity and suspension of its debts payments as well: only essential and vital investments will be pursued. However, the government is yet to approve a clear economic plan and identify priorities in investment.

Supply chain, logistics and freight

Operations in Beirut's port area have been affected by the 4 August explosions and their aftermath, but otherwise, land, air, and maritime seaports remain open. No noticeable changes in charges have been reported.

Some restrictions apply to agriculture and food imports to comply with trade calendars.

Distribution channels down to the last-mile arrangements are still in place, despite some supply chain difficulties stemming from the Beirut port explosions.

Sector insights: food and beverage

Lebanon is likely to witness a spike in food demand shortly, especially for dairy and meat. This may be beneficial for New Zealand dairy businesses present in the market. However, due to fierce price competition from Turkish imports, meat businesses are less likely to see a benefit unless supply shortages change dramatically.

Additional resources

Below you can find information and contact details for other New Zealand government and international agencies regarding their response to COVID-19.

New Zealand Government agencies

COVID-19 helpline for businesses
New Zealand Customs
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)
New Zealand Export Credit (NZEC)
MFAT Export Helpline
MFAT Safetravel
Callaghan Innovation
Ministry of Health
WorkSafe New Zealand

Global agencies

World Health Organization (WHO)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Contact NZTE

We're available to talk to you about any issues your export business is facing due to COVID-19.

For existing NZTE customers, please contact your New Zealand-based Customer Manager.

If you're unsure who to contact or haven't worked with us before, you can call NZTE on 0800 555 888 or email below and one of our Customer Advisors will help you.