As the Gaza Strip has self-sufficiency in vegetables and fruits, the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry announced on Sunday that it stopped all agricultural imports except bananas and apples.
This decision, the ministry said, came after the domestic produce became able to fulfil consumers' needs in the local markets with reasonable prices. Bananas and apples imports were not stopped as their produce is still limited and cannot meet the markets' needs.
Gaza produces about 70,000 tons of fruits annually; twenty five thousand of citrus, seven thousand of grapes, 20 thousand of olives, ten thousand of guava and five thousand of dates. It also produces more than 300,000 tons vegetable every year.
The marketing and crossings director in the ministry Tahseen al-Saqqa said that his ministry stopped vegetables imports completely ten years ago, but it sometime allowed melons and onions during times of scarcity which is about two months a year.
Al-Saqqa said that the Gaza Strip is able to export many kinds of agricultural produce such as tomatoes, cucumber, strawberry and flowers, but this is always faced by Israeli obstacles. "Nothing has been exported from the Strip's vegetables since 2006. By the help of some international NGOs and under the pressure of the EU, farmers could export few amounts of strawberry and flowers last year," Al-Saqqa said.
About 44,000 workers work in agricultural and other connected professions. It forms about 11 per cent from the labour market in the Gaza Strip. As new important decisions besides stopping agricultural produce imports, the ministry expected the number of workers in this sector to increase in the future.
Regarding the current high prices of tomato in Gaza, the ministry said that this is a seasonal rise which does not last too long because of the transitional whether from summer to winter which affect the tomato crops.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad