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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Israel: Flowers and Strawberries can be exported from Gaza

Last update - 14:41 21/11/2007    
 Israel okays renewal of flower, strawberry exports from Gaza 
By Amiram Cohen, Haaretz Correspondent
The government has decided to permit the renewal of flower and strawberry exports from the Gaza Strip to Europe from agricultural export terminals inside Israel.
Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, both of Labor, approved the move after Palestinian farmers and Israeli exporters appealed to the High Court of Justice against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Simchon and Barak.
The exports came to a halt after the security cabinet declared the Gaza Strip a 'hostile entity' in response to ongoing militant Qassam fire on the western Negev.
Simchon is to send the details of the decision to Palestinian Authority Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Habash.
The export of flowers and strawberries from the Gaza Strip to the European Union is carried out with the cooperation of Israeli exporters and European buyers, and amounts to roughly NIS 100 million each year. Of that sum, NIS 45 million comes from the sale of carnations.
The Gaza greenhouses that grow carnations were set up with the aid of the European Union and the Dutch government, which recently demanded Israel immediately reverse its blockade of the exports.
Since Hamas took control of Gaza in June, Israel has blocked almost all exports from the area, severely hurting the Gazan economy. All exports from Gaza must travel through Israel.
Gaza's 40,000 farmers have repeatedly pushed for the renewal of exports. Simchon's announcement that the Palestinians will be able to export all of their flower and strawberry crops will be worth at least $14 million to farmers, the Palestinian Chamber of Commerce said.
On Tuesday, farmers fed flowers to their cattle rather than let them go to waste.
Israel will in the near future ease trade with Gaza further, Simchon said.
The international aid group Oxfam warned Wednesday of an increasing risk to public health in Gaza due to a reduction in fuel supplies. About 225,000 people in Gaza do not receive adequate amounts of drinking water because water pumps are not operating at full capacity, Oxfam said in a release.
Abbas has asked Israel to ease its restrictions on impoverished Gaza. Abbas still claims to rule Gaza, though he has little influence there.
The matter of calves raised in Israel for Gazan Palestinians has still not been solved. Since agricultural trade between Israel and Gaza stopped, Israeli veal farmers have been losing roughly NIS 2 million per month, as they continue to hold 2,000 calves intended to be sold for slaughter in Gaza.

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