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Gaza to refuse import of fruit from Israel

Sept. 21, 2012 6:13 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 24, 2012 9:54 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The Gaza Strip's agriculture ministry on Friday said it would not allow the import of fruits to the enclave in order to protect the local market.

The announcement came as Israel promised new measures facilitate the entry and exit of goods at Gaza crossings. Several products will be removed from a blacklist permitting their import to Gaza, an Israeli official said Thursday.

Marketing director in Gaza's agriculture ministry Tahsen al-Saqa told Ma'an that no fruits would be imported from Israel, with the exception of apples and bananas, as farmers in Gaza farmers grew their own guava, dates, citrus fruits and grapes.

Al-Saqa added that Israel had prevented the import of vegetables to Gaza for several years, and that the enclave had become self-sufficient. "We have 98 percent self-sufficiency in (producing) vegetables."

In the West Bank, a once-flourishing agriculture industry has been devastated, in part due to competition from Israeli produce, as well as Israeli control of Palestinian water resources and confiscation of agricultural land. Israeli farmers, who have greater access to water, sell their produce on Palestinian markets that farmers in Gaza cannot access.

Israel controls imports and exports into Gaza through its military blockade, while in the West Bank, Israel influences the Palestinian market through the Paris Protocol signed between Israel and the PLO. The cancellation of the Paris Protocol was a key demand of protesters who took to the streets across the West Bank earlier this month.

Exports

Israeli, regional and West Bank markets have been cut off from Gaza traders since 2007 when Israel tightened restrictions on Gaza after Hamas took control of the strip. Hamas had been democratically elected a year earlier.

Israel has allowed a limited number of trucks to export strawberries and carnations to European markets after pressure from the EU, but those account for a fraction of the exports that left the Gaza Strip prior to Israel's blockade, al-Saqa said.

Khatib Mansour, director of the Israeli army's Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza, said Thursday that Israel would permit furniture and clothes to be exported from Gaza to the West Bank.

Israel's blockade destroyed Gaza's export-dependent economy. The World Bank says the private sector will not recover until access to its traditional markets in Israel and the West Bank is restored.

In recent reports ahead of a PA donor conference this month, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United Nations have warned of a worsening economic crisis in both the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

"We should all be concerned about Gaza’s future if there is no change to the current untenable situation," UN special envoy Robert Serry said Thursday.
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