Gaza farmers call on UN to sell produce in the West Bank

Palestinian farmers have called on the UN to put pressure on Israel to allow them to market and sell their produce in the West Bank.

Farmers sat outside the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN in Gaza city on 17 October protesting the blockade’s suffocating effects on the local agriculture industry.

The banners held by farmers displayed slogans calling on local and international organisations working to expand farmers’ rights to take action.

Products produced in Gaza are banned from being sold in both the Palestinian and Israeli markets. Farmers are desperate for a source of income, the Director of the Agricultural Cooperative Association, Mohamed Ghaben, told the Anadolu Agency.

Farmers in Gaza already suffer huge losses as it is; 15,000 tonnes of surplus produce currently sit in storage.

In addition, the farmer, in case of loss, will be forced to lay off workers on his farm, which leads to an increase in the unemployment rate and poverty, Ghaden stated.

Last month a Palestinian popular committee reported that 85 per cent of the population in Gaza live below the poverty line due to the Israeli blockade.

Selling agricultural products is not only a vital economic sustenance but also a lifeline for farmers.

A PalTrade fact sheet reported that since 2007, Israel has banned all exports from Gaza including shipments to the West Bank.

In 2014 Israeli allowed certain agricultural products to be sold in the West Bank, however restrictions of movement and the closing of trade crossing points have made this nearly impossible and farmers turned to European aid initiatives to help them access the international market.

The average monthly export of agricultural products from the Gaza Strip in 2015 was 13.5 truckloads, mainly strawberries and vegetables that were exported to European markets, PalTrade reported.

Although Israel opened crossing Karem Shalom in 2014, it has a low daily export capacity and is not suitable for agriculture exports with no refrigerated areas to handle agricultural products, reported PalTrade.

Source: Palestine Monitor