Feature: Palestinian volunteers launch initiative to help Jordan Valley’s farmers market products

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by Sanaa Kamal

RAMALLAH, June 16 (Xinhua) — Palestinian volunteers have recently launched an initiative to help farmers at the Jordan Valley out of the difficulty in selling their products, especially watermelons, in a tight local market flooded with rival Israeli goods.

According to official statistics, the Palestinians consume approximately 40,000 tons of watermelons annually, 75 percent of which are from Israel.

The initiative, launched a few days ago by dozens of volunteers, is based on a strategy of purchasing watermelons and marketing them in several cities in the West Bank.

“The produce is marketed and sold through Facebook’s advertisements … mostly in Ramallah, al-Bireh, Nablus, Tulkarm and Salfit,” Farid Tamallah, a co-founder of the initiative, told Xinhua.

He said the initiative came after a visit to the Jordan Valley that saw stretches of watermelons left to rot because of the farmers’ inability to market them.

“One kg of (Jordan Valley’s) watermelon is priced at no more than one U.S. dollar, which is way cheaper but better than the Israeli watermelon,” Tamallah said, adding the demand is starting to get higher through the initiative.

Mohammed al-Fayez, who owns 20 hectares of farmlands in the Jordan Valley and employs some 50 farmers, said he sold 18 tons of watermelon through the initiative.

“However, it is not enough to compensate for the large losses we suffered,” al-Fayez, the only breadwinner of his seven-member family, told Xinhua.

Tamallah also admitted that his volunteers have limited capabilities to turn the tables around, calling on the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture to help promote the initiative.

Tareq Abu Laban, undersecretary for the economic sector in the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, welcomed the initiative to market the products of the Jordan Valley’s farmers.

“The ministry supports the farmers and protects their produce in the Palestinian markets by preventing the import of similar products from any other region,” Laban told Xinhua.

The Israeli watermelons are introduced into the West Bank markets by smugglers, according to the official.

The ongoing coronavirus crisis and the Palestinian leadership’s decision to abolish all agreements with Israel limited the ministry’s ability to trace smugglers, he explained.

The Jordan Valley, home to some 65,000 Palestinians and 9,000 Israeli settlers, constitutes a strategic treasure for its vast fertile farmlands and mild climate.

Israel is planning to annex the Jordan Valley, which accounts for 28 percent of the territory on which the Palestinians want to establish an independent state under the vision of the two-state solution. Enditem

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