25 November 2010

Geen nieuws in Nederland: Dutch government secures limited exports for Gaza

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- Israeli officials approved the export of strawberries and carnations from Gaza for the second year in a row under a continuing Dutch government program to support farmers in the coastal enclave, officials confirmed Thursday, but said that approval for the export of a limited number of vegetables remained pending.

Palestinian crossings liaison official Raed Fattouh said Wednesday that Israel had agreed to some limited exports, with two truckloads of strawberries set to leave the Strip on Sunday as a trial run for the season.

Director of the Dutch initiative in Gaza Yousef Shaath said the strawberry export season was expected to last from 28 November to 24 February, with a total of 700 tons of the fruit set to pass out of the coastal enclave.

Carnation export, the official said, was expected to begin on 5 December and last until 10 May, with 30 million stems scheduled for delivery to flower auction houses in Amsterdam.

Israeli delays in the start of the export season for 2009 saw less than half of the scheduled 40 million stems reach their destination, with some 25 million flowers fed to livestock after perishing due to the wait.

Cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers

The still devastated Gaza economy and the success of the Dutch government program for 2009 lead to a limited expansion of the project for 2010, with a $2.6 million grant from the Netherlands supporting the planting of 50 dunums of cherry tomatoes and 50 dunums of sweet peppers in addition to the more than 700 dunums of strawberries and carnations.

"Dutch officials met with Israeli government personnel on Wednesday to push the issue," Shaath said, adding that "until now we do not have a commitment for the export of the vegetables."

The products, Shaath explained, were planted specifically for export, "these are cash crops, selling them on the local market would not even make back the total cost of planting and harvesting," saying organizers hoped to receive approval for the export in the coming days.

Gaza's only exports

With Israel's siege on the Gaza Strip continuing to prohibit all other exports, the farming products sold under the auspices of the Dutch government initiative remains the only trade commerce program in the area.

In 2009, carnations from Gaza sold at an average auction price of €0.12, earning an estimated €1.8 million for farmers.

"The income goes directly to the farmers," Shaath said, "the Dutch program gives grants to producers," covering much of the basic costs involved in the growing and harvesting process, then secures passage for the products.

"We are starting small with the vegetables this year since we do not know if they will be accepted for export," Shaath said, "but the margins for the cherry tomatoes and sweet peppers are better for the farmers."

If the export proposal is not accepted, the goods will likely be sold locally for below cost.

(Ma'an News 25.11.2010)

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