Food security in Gaza is on the brink

Palestinian farmer Hamada al-Astal, 37, decided to stop cultivating his agricultural land in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khanyounis due to heavy material losses in the past few days.

The astal farmer owns seven agricultural dunums, all planted with tomato crops, where the recent Israeli aggression, as well as the closure of the Karam Abu Salem crossing, have damaged a large part of it.

"Since the outbreak of the recent Israeli aggression against Gaza, we have not been able to reach agricultural land to irrigate the tomato crop, which has caused damage to a large part of it, in addition to preventing the export of vegetables abroad due to the closure of the Karam Abu Salem crossing," he says.

According to al-Astal, tomato cultivation costs 10,000 Israeli shekels, equivalent to nearly 3,000 U.S. dollars, with initial losses estimated at 10,000 Jordanian dinars..

"The export of tomatoes and vegetables in general has been halted due to the closure of the Karam Abu Salem crossing, which will prevent me from growing vegetables, due to the significant financial losses I have suffered."

The astal farmer fears for his fate and that of his family, who are now without any income after he stopped growing tomatoes, in addition to the accumulation of the financial court on him.

 "Today I am unemployed, I cannot provide a decent living for my family and children and our fate is unknown in light of the poor economic conditions in the Gaza Strip," he says.

The demands of the stalled farmer are very simple, he hopes to reopen the Karam Abu Salem crossing, as soon as possible, and allow the export of vegetables to foreign markets as before.

Ahd al-Agha, director of the Khan Younis Agricultural Cooperative Association, says the Israeli side is preventing the introduction of all agricultural-related materials, which will have a significant negative impact on the preparations for the next agricultural season, which begins next September.

The agricultural season needs a period of preparation, he said, providing seeds, breeding steriles, fertilizers and pesticides, which the Israeli side has been preventing from entering until now due to the closure of the Karam Abu Salem crossing.

He stresses that the lack of such materials will create great suffering for all farmers in the Gaza Strip, which could threaten food security in the Gaza Strip, given the reluctance of farmers to cultivate their land and prepare it for agriculture.

The Aga shows that the oversupply of vegetables in the Gaza markets has led to a significant drop in their prices, as a result of the interruption of exports to the West Bank and Israeli markets.

He points out that the export process from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel markets creates a state of price balance in local markets in the Gaza Strip.

According to the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture statistics, nearly 43,000 tons of vegetables were exported from Gaza to the West Bank and Israel markets in 2020.

According to Al-Agha, the initial losses caused by the continued closure of the Karam Abu Salem crossing are estimated at $20,000.

Food basket nears the brink of danger

According to the Gaza Ministry of Agriculture, the food basket of Gazans is nearing the brink of danger, as a result of heavy losses to farmers and their reluctance to grow, as the Israeli occupation of the Karam Abu Salem crossing has prolonged for more than 35 days in a row.

The ministry said in a statement issued on June 15th that the value of losses suffered by the agricultural export and fish sector as a result of the closure of the Karam Abu Salem crossing amounted to about ($12 million), stressing that the prolonged closure by the Israeli occupation will double the losses of Palestinian farmers and traders.

Farmers had intentions to refrain from agriculture in light of low local prices and preventing occupation by allowing their products to market to the West Bank and export to Arab countries, as well as to prevent the introduction of production supplies, she said, warning that the continuation of this situation would affect the food basket of citizens in the Gaza Strip.

The Ministry of Agriculture called on all human rights institutions and international and Arab authorities related to agriculture and food to stand by their responsibilities to force the occupation to open the Karam Abu Salem crossing and allow the marketing and export of agricultural products and the introduction of agricultural supplies.

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