Palestinian farmers will start exporting cherry tomatoes from the Gaza Strip this week, as part of a government decision from the end of 2010 to expand the Strip's agricultural exports.
The first stage will see some 50 tons of tomatoes sent to Europe through Israel.
According to estimates, the exports will yield Gaza's farmers some €150,000 (about $206,500).
The Palestinian farmers will deliver the tomatoes through the Kerem Shalom crossing to Israeli agricultural export company Agrexco, which markets the produce in Europe. The money is transferred to agricultural cooperatives, which will hand it over to the Palestinian farmers.
The Agrexco company stresses that it has lists of the growers and ensures that the money reaches them.
Since the Hamas
took over Gaza and Israel imposed a siege on the coastal enclave, exports from the Strip were stopped and Gaza lived off aid received from the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and from money arriving illegally through underground tunnels, most likely from Iran. Industrial exports are still paralyzed.
As part of the exports, which began in November 2010, the Strip's farmers export strawberries, carnations and peppers. Meanwhile, the pepper exports have been halted due to technical problems.
So far, Gaza's farmers have exported some 367 tons of strawberries worth €1.8 million ($2.5 million), about 5.3 million carnations worth €850,000 ($1.17 million) and 6 tons of peppers.
The agricultural activity in the Strip is conducted with the help of the Dutch government, as part of a special project training farmers and providing them with infrastructure through a Palestinian agricultural company.
The office of the coordinator of government activities in the territories, Major-General, Eitan Dangot, stresses that the Dutch aid is being supervised by the Israeli defense establishment.
Agreements signed between Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority ahead of the Gaza pullout stated that the Strip's agricultural exports will be take place through the Rafah crossing, which was closed completely after the blockade was imposed.
According to Major-General Dangot's office, "The export of cherry tomatoes was made possible after activities involving defense officials, the Defense Ministry's crossing administration, the Dutch government, the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian farmers and the Coordination and Liaison Authority at the Erez crossing.
"Israel views the involvement of the international community in implementing the civilian policy towards the population which is uninvolved in terrorism as extremely important, and will work to expand economic projects in the Strip."