Palestinian growers have invested a lot in the previous seasons to improve their crops and post harvest handling in order to compete better in the international markets. Especially in the Gaza Strip, promising progress has been made, given the difficult political situation. Farmers and their cooperatives were confident to start the coming season with better products and better logistics, although free exchange of knowledge and produce is still a big hurdle. However, the Israeli military escalations in the summer created many destructions and caused question marks for the season to come. Nevertheless the indications show possible exports of fresh herbs, strawberries and vegetables this season. Export of sweet potatoes already started on September 15.

New energy for the new season
A new website is tangible evidence that the Palestinian growers and their coops are working hard to build sustainable links with the international market. The site is only one of the achievements from long term investments in better growing techniques, better storage and transportation and stronger marketing. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) is coordinating and managing these activities, including the contacts with the Israeli Agriculture Ministry and other Israeli authorities to facilitate the passage of products through borders. It’s all part of a long term effort of the Netherlands to stimulate high value agriculture in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Iyad Madi, 36, from Shokeh, in the southern Gaza Strip used to be a daily labourer in Israel until 2004. He invested in a 1 dunum (around 0.1 ha) greenhouse to grow vegetables and managed over 8 years to expand and reach 4 dunums. In 2013 the farm joined the aforementioned FAO's High Value Crops project (supported by the Dutch government), which enabled him to obtain the GLOBALGAP certification and export his fresh bell peppers and cherry tomatoes. Also for the new season he planned to export to the EU. However, his greenhouses were directly hit and totally destructed. He lost all that he earned and now his family is dependent on emergency food aid.

Strawberries, fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes
In the previous season, around 200 tons of strawberries were exported to the EU market in the period mid-November to mid-January, as well as 120 tons of cherry tomatoes, sweet peppers and fresh herbs in the period September – February. It will become clear in the coming months how much capacity the agricultural sector has for production and export in the coming season. Despite the damages and losses, all are working hard to plant new crops and get ready in time. Initial estimates indicate that export quality of fresh herbs (Chives, Basil and Mint), strawberries and vegetables will be possible. The first shipment of sweet potatoes for the French market already crossed the border with Israel on September 15. Other products are likely to be ready for the EU market from the first half of November onwards.

For more information:
Nasser Samara (Palestinian Territory)
FAO project
Tel: +972 (0)54 802 6923
Jos Leeters (Netherlands)
Bureau Leeters
Tel: +31 (0)620 447 371