[News] $280 million in Agriculture Losses Due to Gaza Blockade

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Jul 6 11:24:33 EDT 2010


Report: Agriculture Losses Due to Gaza Blockade
http://english.pnn.ps/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=8452

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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