[News] $280 million in Agriculture Losses Due to Gaza Blockade
news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 6 11:24:33 EDT 2010
Report: Agriculture Losses Due to Gaza Blockade
06.07.10 - 11:17
Rami Al Meghari Gaza - United Nations officials
estimate that the Israeli led four year blockade
on the Gaza Strip has caused some $280 million in agriculture losses.
Philip Lazerini leads the U.N. Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the
occupied territories says the blockade hampers the farming industry in Gaza.
"The agriculture sector is on the brink of
collapse. The blockade is simply not allowing
enough material for the farming community to
sustain itself. Farmers must use all rusty
equipment, or need to repair equipment. Herders
are running out of drugs to treat their animals." Lazerini said.
Gaza farmers have concentrated their farming on
some essential crops- like tomatoes, cucumbers,
potatoes and, more recently, watermelon. But they
have a difficult time obtaining seeds and fertilizers to grow crops.
In the central Gaza Strip village of Alzawayda,
Suleiman Eid tills his land in preparation for
planting vegetables. Eid has been a farmer for more than 40 years.
"Israel prevented entry of chemicals for
fertilizing the land. As for the chemicals that
come through Egypt, they are not enough or
efficient. As you see, this heap of organic
fertilizers has cost me about $800. However, this
needs chemicals to bolster it. For example, I
need urea chemicals, but we don't have that at
the local market. Also, there are other chemical
substances that can not be found as well," Eid explains.
There are about 1.5 million residents in Gaza. In
addition to [their own] livelihoods, Gazan
farmers have played an important role in feeding
the residents of the coastal territory. Gaza
farmers also export crops, including strawberries
and flowers. Before the blockade, Gaza farmers
exported an estimated 32 million flowers. But
over the last two years, Israel has restricted
exports to about 700,000 flowers annually.
Another vital sector in Gaza is fishing, which
provides an important source of protein to
families. Under the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords, Gaza
fishermen are allowed to sail up to 12 nautical
miles off Gaza shores. But Israel has restricted
fishing boats to only 2 to 3 nautical miles off
Gaza shores. And these areas have declining fish populations.
"Now we cannot go further off shore. Once we go
further, an Israeli naval vessel prevents us.
Consequently, all of us fishermen work within the
same restricted range. Fishing is very
restricted, and with all the fishermen working in
the same area our living is very limited," says
Maher Alnada a fisherman on the Rafah city coast in southern Gaza.
Recently, Israel has eased the blockade,
following the deadly attack on a Gaza aid convoy
and due to increased international pressure.
Raed Fattouh is the Palestinian Authority
official in charge of coordinating entry of goods
into Gaza. He says that Israel has recently
allowed some shipments of seeds and fishing tools into Gaza
"Currently, the Israeli side has allowed in 600
items, unlike before, where only 130 items were
allowed in. As for the goods allowed in, they
meet the Gaza market needs, but raw materials
and- more importantly- cement is needed in order
to fill in the shortage," Fattouh reported.
More goods, such as electronic devices, will be
allowed in soon, according to Fatthouh. Among the
goods Israel added to the list: tomato sauce,
chocolates, chips, children's toys, and some
shipments of cement and steel to be used in U.N. construction projects.
Many Gazans downplay the decision, and call for a
complete lifting of the blockade. Jamal
Alkhudari is a Gaza Member of Parliament and head
of the Popular Committee for Breaking the Israeli blockade.
"So far, 3500 items are still banned from flowing
into Gaza, and this is substantial evidence that
the Israeli occupation is still enforcing the
blockade. Yet, by easing the blockade, they
attempt to send out a message to the outside
world, to relax the international pressure on
them on one hand, and legitimize the blockade, on
the other hand." Alkhudari stated.
According to the Hamas-led agricultural ministry,
12,000 fishermen are currently jobless, while
more than 400 fishing boats are no longer functioning.
Rami Al Meghari is a Palestinian journalist for
the Gaza Strip he reports for many local and
international news outlets in both Arabic and
English. He can be reached at <mailto:ramimunir at gmail.com>ramimunir at gmail.com
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