Gisha in a letter to the Minister of Agriculture – remove restrictions on the sale of Gaza produce in Israel
On September 7, 2015, Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture posted a notice on its website that the severe heat wave in the country had resulted in a significant shortage of fruits and vegetables, driving produce prices up. The notice said that Minister of Agriculture MK Uri Ariel had issued orders to “enable extensive import of fruits and vegetables at this time and with greater ease from Jordan and other countries”, in a bid to prevent shortages and price hikes. The minister also removed the duties on fruit and vegetable imports into Israel.
In response, Gisha wrote to the Minister of Agriculture Ariel (Hebrew) that given the produce shortage in Israel, the restricted sales of Gaza-grown produce in Israel that are already taking place and the variety of produce on offer in Gaza, the Gaza Strip should be given the status of a priority import zone and the current restrictions on the sales of Gaza produce in Israel should be lifted. We note that currently, Israel allows the sale of tomatoes and eggplants from Gaza in Israel, but the permit is in place only for a year (to answer demand while Jews observe a religious custom that requires letting the land lay fallow for a year). In addition to the time restriction, these sales are limited in many other ways, beginning with a quota on the amount cleared for sale in Israel in a given month (250 tons of tomatoes and 50 tons of eggplants), continuing with the type of produce permitted for sale and ending with procedural restrictions related to sorting, packing and shipping.
In its letter, Gisha noted that Gaza farmers and suppliers are willing and able to supply, in addition to tomatoes and eggplants, also cucumbers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, hot peppers, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and beets. The produce on offer is varied, of high quality and in demand in Israel. Contrary to imports from foreign countries, this produce could arrive in Israel quickly and without the need to lift duties, as Gaza is part of the same customs envelope as Israel. For this reason, increasing produce sales from Gaza would benefit both Israeli consumers and Gaza farmers and suppliers. Increasing sales from Gaza would also conform to Israel’s official post-Operation Protective Edge Policy of seeking to aid Gaza’s reconstruction and economic recovery. We hope the minister of agriculture will deliver on his promise and allow significant import of fruit and vegetables from all over the world, and primarily, form our neighbor, the Gaza Strip.