The Hamas government has banned the import of Israeli fruits except for bananas and apples into the besieged Gaza Strip in at attempt to tend to the local Palestinian production as well as refrain from the Jewish state of Israel; leaving many furious with such an “impulsive” and rather “reckless” decision.
There is now a growing fear about whether the fruits Gaza produces will ever be sufficient to cover the needs of this densely populated coastal enclave.
“Given that the Gaza Strip produces for only one season of the entire year, the fruit produced here will never be sufficient to the population for more than a couple of months. This hasty decision will deprive the entire Gazan population of their rights to a variety if not any fruits at all,” said Wessam Abdul Azeez, a 41 years old fruit vendor and father of six.
Although the Gazan farmers are at ease with the decision, especially since the price of peaches and dates have doubled since the decision, others are outraged by the Hamas ban.
“This will trigger major losses for those like myself earning their living from selling Israeli fruits. We will all end up unemployed. Of all things – why fruits!”, cries Wessam Abdul Azeez.
“We haven’t yet reached the extent of self-sufficiency and I assume that such a decision would be quite hard to implement in Gaza due to the hard economical and political conditions,” said Mo’een Rajab, an economics professor at al-Azhar University in Gaza.
Manager of Marketing in the Ministry of Gaza, Tahsin Al-Saqa said that the ban comes from the desire to protect local production.
“A similar prohibition on the import of vegetables was imposed a few years ago because the Strip reached a rate of 98 percent self-sufficiency for vegetables. The vegetable harvest in Gaza reaches some 300,000 tons per year,” he continued.
According to Al-Saqa, the fruit harvest in Gaza Strip is up to 70,000 tons per year, of which 25,000 tons are comprised of citrus fruits, 10,000 tons of grapes and 6,500 tons of dates. Gaza used to import 35,000 tons of Israeli fruits per year with a cost of 15 million U.S. dollars. With those fruits now banned, prices of fruits have of course amplified.
Yousef Al Massri, an importer, expected the climb in the prices of fruit, which most of Gaza’s 1.6 million Palestinians that depend on aid, cannot afford.
“Ever since the import ban came into effect, the price of peaches for example has doubled to eight Israeli shekels (US$2) a kilo, while dates went from 7 shekels to a total of 11 shekels (US$2.81) a kilo. There is no way we can afford this,” he exclaimed.
Although the import ban has increased the price of fruits on the regular citizen, it has managed to help the farmers cover some of their expenses; improving their situation for the better.
“For years, we could barely cover all our costs since it’s almost impossible for us to compete with the Israeli fruits which are cheaper in price and larger in quantity,” said Waleed Abdul Rahman, a 41 year old year old farmer in Beit Hanoun. “This procedure is helping us marketing our goods.”
Rana E. Manna is Your Middle East’s Editor in Gaza. She most recently wrote Fuel crisis in Gaza deteriorates as Egypt destroys tunnels.