The Hamas government has barred much of Gaza’s fruit imports from Israel, citing a need to cultivate local Palestinian agriculture and for “resistance” against the Jewish state.
The ban is opposed by Gazan produce traders who fear a squeeze on supplies and price hikes in the poor coastal enclave, which has a largely black market economy and lacks viable trade with Egypt, its other neighbour. Local growers however said the move would help them.
With the exception of bananas and apples, Gaza is no longer admitting fruit from Israel, the Agriculture Ministry said on Monday. The ban affects at least seven kinds of fruit and, in terms of sales, constitutes around a 50 percent cut in imports whose 2011 value the ministry put at $26 million.
Tahseen Al-Saqqa, the ministry’s director of marketing, said the move was in part a response to what he described as Israel’s refusal to allow the export, through its border with Gaza, of staple Palestinian fruit like grapes and guavas.
“The Palestinian farmer is suffering because all doors to export have been closed,” Saqqa said.
The charge was denied by Israel, which limits traffic in and out of Gaza and whose dealings with Palestinians there are often circuitous given long-running hostilities with Islamist Hamas.
“I know of no request to export agriculture products from Gaza that has been refused,” said Guy Inbar, spokesman for the division in Israel’s Defence Ministry which liaises with the Palestinian territories.
PRICE OF WAR
Gaza fruit importer Jaber Al-Shanty said the Hamas government ban was “irresponsible and unrealistic” as it overlooked the losses to hundreds of Palestinians whose livelihood depends on marketing the fruit.
“The local product is not nearly enough” to offset the shortfall, he said. “What do we have in large quantities, other than guava?”