The streets and shops of the Gaza Strip are now rich in the fruits of palm trees amid growing obstacles regarding marketing and storage in view of the electricity crisis and the closure of border crossings.
The Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture in Gaza on 29 September inaugurated the new season of red dates, one of the most important products of the agricultural sector in the southern governorates of the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza Strip has over 250,000 palm trees, mostly planted in the southern areas, with 150,000 trees producing an average of 100-300 kg of red dates.
Anticipation and uncertainty
With great concern, the Gazan farmer Abu Antar Baraka cannot wait to harvest his crops and store them in refrigerators in the hope of exporting them to the occupied West Bank and European countries.
Baraka, 65, in one of the orchards of Deir al-Balah City, supervises dozens of workers engaged in harvesting palm tree fruits and filling them in boxes before they are sent to stores.
Baraka said, "The picking started a few days ago and is likely to continue until mid-October. The season is good and the fruits are many, but our problem is marketing the fruits, so we store them in the hope of exporting abroad. Power cuts and the closure of crossings stand in our way."
Abu Tamer Baraka, 70, said that the red dates harvest season is the most important for many farmers in the Gaza Strip as it is their only source of livelihood.
"Farmers wait until the season of palm tree fruits starts to meet the cost of their sons' marriage and pay off their debts," he added.
Naser al-Deeb, the director general of the Guidance Department in the Ministry of Agriculture, conducts field tours to palm groves in Gaza to oversee the picking operations.
Al-Deeb confirmed that the Gaza Strip produces 12,000-15,000 tons of red dates, expressing his happiness to overcome the most complicated problem facing the palm planting sector, which is the palm weevil.
He explained, "We have fought that pest for years and we have made progress. Today the production seems plentiful, and we expect farmers and traders to make good profit."
Wael Thabet, the director general of the Plant Protection Department in the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the ministry's plan to protect the palm fruit harvest is likely to succeed.
"We have an ample amount of dates from 150,000 tress and we are trying to make pressed dates to protect the palm economy from collapse," Thabet said.
The Palestinian farmer Jamal Abu Jummeiza has a special experience with palm fruits and he has been known for making pressed dates, drying the fruits, and even benefiting from the seeds for the coffee industry.
Abu Jummeiza said, "I'm happy with this productive season. The season lasts for 30-40 days, and I will spend the rest of the year drying the fruits and making pressed dates ready for sale."
The palm sector contributes to the national economy of the besieged Gaza Strip, but the regular closure of border crossings and the electricity crisis have left the farmers and traders in constant fear of possible losses.