(photo credit: REUTERS)
Continued fruit trade between Israeli farmers and Gazan merchants remains a crucial, “winwin” situation for both sides, the head of the Israel Fruit Growers Association told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
Itzik Cohen, CEO of the Association, spoke with the Post following an annual meeting that morning between Gazan fruit merchants and Israeli growers at Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, coordinated by the Gaza Liaison and Coordination Administration of the IDF.
Since Gazans purchase some 10 to 15 percent of Israeli fruit supplies, conducting such meetings on an annual basis is critical to parties from both sides of the border, Cohen maintained.
The most popular fruits sold from Israel to Gaza include mangoes, avocados, apples and bananas, he said.
Each year, the farmers and traders meet to keep their connection and solve various issues that have arisen over the year. Many of those problems come from packaging and security issues, due to the resultant financial costs and logistical complications.
Following the meetings, the Israel Fruit Growers Association takes to solving the problems, trying as much as possible to ease the transfer and sale process, Cohen said.
While Gazan fruit traders and consumers depend on Israeli produce for their market supply, the fruit growers also rely upon this sector for export of a sizable chunk of their crops, he noted.
“If there is a security problem and the border is closed, it causes damage to farmers in Israel,” Cohen said. “The farmers count on this market.”
Monday’s gathering was the first meeting of its kind since the conclusion of this summer’s Operation Protective Edge. These particular growers and merchants last met in December 2013 at a similar meeting, also facilitated by the Gaza Liaison Administration.
One particularly bothersome issue involves the fact that most Gazan fruit merchants can only get approval for one-day entrances into Israel leaving them little time to reach the orchards or farms from which they are interested in buying, Cohen explained. He and his colleagues, therefore, are working with the army to obtain more overnight permits for the merchants, he said.
Slowly, he noted, both sides are seeing progress in a trade regimen that is truly beneficial to populations on both sides of the border.
“It’s a win-win,” Cohen said. “Good for them and good for us.”