Gazan fruit farmers losing out amid competition from Israeli produce

GAZA – Despite having a bumper harvest, Gazan fruit farmers, facing competition from cheaper Israeli produce, see only a bleak picture for their business this year.

Abdullah Abu Khousa, a strawberry farmer from Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, told Xinhua that since the harvest season began in November, he can barely export 0.2 tons of his harvest each week to the West Bank.

“For years, even during the Israeli blockade, I exported at least six tons of strawberry every week, which was sold at 2.3 U.S. dollars per kilo,” said the 48-year-old father of five, adding that 80 percent of his produce was used to export to Europe, Israel, and the West Bank.

But now the situation has completely changed as Israeli produce flooded in with cheaper prices, he complained.

“As a result, the farmers have to lower their fruit prices in the West Bank to compete with their Israeli counterparts … Now each kilo of strawberry was sold at 1.2 U.S. dollars only,” he said.

In Gaza, there are about 3,600 hectares of land planted with strawberries, which produce at least 8,000 tons of fruits every season, according to the Hamas-run agriculture ministry.

“We are stuck in a dilemma. I can hardly earn enough money to pay for the operating expenses and my workers’ salaries,” said Abu Khousa.

The same problem has been encountered by the farmers of citrus fruits, who are supposed to harvest about 44,000 tons of citrus from 18,4000-hectare lands from November to February, based on statistics issued by the agriculture ministry in Gaza.

Taiseer al-Dahdouh, a Gaza-based farmer of citrus fruits, complained that he has not made any profits from his 5.8-hectare land over the past five years in a row.

Year by year, he explains, the costs have doubled due to the increase in the prices of fertilizers, pesticides, and the fuel used by transport vehicles. However, the price of citrus fruits does not change in Gaza due to the endless economic crisis.

“The farmers are selling their citrus by one U.S. dollar for each kilo,” the 53-year-old father of eight complained, mulling to chop down his trees and build a rental house if the “current intolerable situation remains the same.”

Al-Dahdouh blamed the Hamas authorities for allowing the import of citrus from Israel, saying that it only made the matter worse.

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