GAZA CITY, March 22, 2-11 (KATAKAMI.COM) — Cherry tomatoes grown by farmers in Gaza can now compete with settlement produce on European supermarket shelves, Ma’an News Agency reported on Tuesday.
The Gaza Strip has exported cherry tomatoes since the 1980s, said Jamal Abu An-Naja, who manages the export of vegetables and flowers from southern Gaza.
But under Israel’s blockade, Gaza’s export market collapsed. Israel’s military has maintained complete control over the enclave’s airspace and coast since 1967, so merchants cannot transport their goods by sea or air from the Gaza Strip. When Israel closed the land crossings in 2007, Gaza traders and farmers could no longer access lucrative markets abroad.
Under a Dutch-funded program, Israel agreed to allow the limited export of agricultural produce to Europe.
An-Naja told Ma’an that 10 farmers took the risk this year of growing flowers and vegetables on around 25 dunums in the Gaza Strip, in the hope that Israel would allow them to export the harvest. Much of the produce rotted as farmers waited for permits from Israeli authorities to transport the goods across the border and into Europe.
Growing tomatoes on one dunum of land costs around $3000, An-Naja said, adding that the Dutch government helped to finance the farmers.
Gaza farmers are keen to export to Europe, where one kilo of cherry tomatoes sells for between $1 – $2.5. In Gaza markets, it sells for around 2 shekels ($0.50). (*)