Palestinian strawberry farmers in the Gaza Strip continue to export their produce to the EU, but say that they face massive losses due to obstacles to trade and high costs imposed by the Israeli occupation, reports MEMO's correspondent in the coastal enclave.
Statistics issued by the ministry of agriculture in Gaza show that farmers this year planted just 600 dunams (just over half a square kilometre) of strawberry plants, compared to the usual 3,000 dunams (three square kilometres).
The ministry said that this year's crop is expected to produce just 1,500 tons of strawberries, a major fall compared to those years when there had been no export restrictions, during which 7,000 tons was the norm. An official noted that Gaza had used to be in the world's top two for strawberry exports. The reduction has been blamed squarely on the Israeli siege and the export restrictions it imposes.
The farmers pointed out that, export difficulties aside, strawberry growing is very expensive due to production costs, including materials, pesticides and water for irrigation.
The Israeli authorities allowed a shipment of strawberries from Gaza to be exported this week. This is the first — and so far only — shipment of this year's crop.