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Minister oversees export of Gaza strawberry harvest

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The Palestinian Minister of Agriculture in Gaza, Ali Al-Tarshawi, has joined strawberry farmers to pick this year's harvest and witness the filling and loading of shipments in preparation for export. The minister was accompanied on his tour of farms in Beit Lahiyya, in the north of the Gaza Strip, by the town's mayor, Izzedine Al-Dahnoun as well as heads of agricultural associations and facilitating agencies, along with ministry officials.


Mr. Al-Tarshawi said that around 250 acres of strawberry crops had been cultivated this year, giving a yield of between 2,500 and 3,000 tons. It is expected that between 500 and 700 tons of the strawberries will be exported from Gaza to Western Europe; the remainder will be consumed locally. He explained only about 500 tons were exported last year, which represents only 30 per cent of the quantity of strawberries being exported prior to the start of Israel's blockade of Gaza when, on average, 1,500 tons were exported.

The minister promised the farmers on behalf of his ministry to take their demands seriously and to endeavour to meet them by improving export levels. He expressed happiness at the efforts being exerted to grow high quality produce, which demonstrated their skill and ability.

Mayor Al-Dahnoun also expressed his happiness at the quality of Beit Lahiyya's agricultural produce which, he believes, matches that of developed countries, and said that the future of the town bodes well for the Palestinian economy. "Palestinian farmers hold firm to their land and maintain it despite repeated Israeli aggression," he added, stressing that by cultivating their land and remaining steadfast, Palestinian farmers are challenging Israel's military occupation.

According to agricultural engineer Hussam Amara, the processing of the strawberry harvest for export is carried out according to "global gap"
specifications which emphasise good agricultural practices.

"Fruit is gathered from the farmers in tiled boxes which have a layer of sponge on the inside," he explained. "The farmers gather them in a special room on their farms. From there they prepare them and then bring them to us to sell." All of the strawberries, he said, are looked at for their shape and weight, and checked for signs of disease. "Once we have agreed on their standard and specifications for export," he added, "the farmers are required to weigh the fruits and put them in cartons of ten boxes, with each box weighing 290 grams."

The pallets are then prepared to be transported.

MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad

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