Farmers forced to stop growing strawberries in Gaza

The Electronic Intifada

Beit Lahiya, 3 February 2015

With its soft sandy soil, plentiful sunshine and an adequate supply of water, northern Gaza has the right conditions for growing strawberries.

To be more precise, it would have the right conditions if farmers were allowed to work in safety — and without restrictive export policies imposed by Israel.

Last summer, Hidaya and Moayad Warshagha had to mostly stay away their small farm in the Beit Lahiya area during a vital time for their crop. Because Israel bombed Gaza for more than six weeks in July and August, tending to their strawberries would have put the couple’s lives in danger.

When they managed to reach their farm during a supposed three-day ceasefire, “the area looked like a red hell,” Hidaya said.

Because the Israeli military was not respecting the ceasefire, “we had to abandon our crop,” she added. “All of the strawberries were destroyed.”

The couple lost $6,000 as a result. [...]

Gaza farmers used to export strawberries to the occupied West Bank, present-day Israel and Europe. But the siege which Israel imposed on Gaza in 2007 has prevented them from doing so.

[...] During the month of January, Israel only allowed five truckloads of food and agricultural goods to cross Karem Abu Salem, according to data compiled by the UN monitoring group OCHA. [...]

“So far we have only managed to export 70 tons of strawberries,” said al-Shafi. “This is not enough.”