Sunday, November 13, 2016

Palestinian farmers and Israeli administration discuss strawberry production in Gaza

It was reported by the Palestinian Ma’an news agency that a meeting was held with Palestinian strawberry farmers from the Gaza Strip and officials from the Israeli Civil Administration (COGAT) to discuss plans for planting strawberries in the Bisan valley of Gaza.

In a statement released by COGAT, an Israeli official said that the administration had initiated a project to facilitate the planting of strawberries by Palestinian famers in collaboration with Agriculture Affairs Coordinator Samir Madi, Head of the Liaisons and Coordination Department Raim Falah, and USAID.

The project started on an area of 12 dunums of land (about 4 acres), which has generated a profit of some 33,000 shekels ($8,599).

The statement added that after the proven success of the project, additional Palestinian farmers took part in it and extended the planted area to 61 dunums (15 acres).

The project has so far produced some 425 tons of strawberries, and has generated an income of some 5 million shekels ($1,302,999) for Palestinian farmers participating in the project.

The statement also added that there would be further discussions on the project, with the expected participation of 30 Palestinian farmers, in cooperation with the Israeli-based company Bio Bee.

Strawberry production, and much of agricultural production, has been on the decline in the Gaza Strip and many strawberry farmers abandoned the practice due to the high cost of production.

Strawberry farmers had been dependent on smuggling planting materials through tunnels between the besieged territory and Egypt. However, following the destruction of smuggling tunnels, famers were forced to purchase Israeli-imported seedlings, insecticides, and fertilizers, which dramatically raised the price of production.

In 2014 Israeli authorities began easing export restrictions from Gaza which created a five-fold increase in exports in 2015 from the previous year, according to the UN.

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