Ma'an News Agency
October 25, 2011 - 12:00am

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A World Bank fund announced on Monday it will give investment guarantees to a Palestinian consortium to help inject $15 million into date palm farms in Jericho.

The Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency -- established 14 years ago to attract investment into the West Bank and Gaza -- will provide $4.8 million in investment guarantees to support Palestinian contributors to the Nakheel Palestine for Agricultural Investment Company's date farms.

"This project represents a critical milestone for (the fund) ... It is only the second investment we have been able to support since the establishment of the Trust Fund in 1997," Executive Vice President Izumi Kobayashi said in a press statement.

"Despite great efforts, we have found that investors remain deeply concerned about political uncertainties," he added.

MIGA, a member of the World Bank group, provides political risk insurance in emerging economies to allay lack of investor confidence.

Palestinian agricultural markets face particular challenges as Israel controls all entry and exit points, and most natural resources.

"Investment in agriculture has really declined due to restrictions on movement and water access," Nakheel Chairman Samir Hulileh said, according to the release.

"With MIGA's backing, we are confident about moving forward with this investment that will help generate jobs and foreign exchange earnings. We hope others will follow."

Nakheel will produce Medjool dates and seedlings, planting the palm trees and harvesting, storing, and packing the dates. An estimated 20 percent of the produce will be supplied to Palestinian markets, with the remainder exported, mainly to European countries.

Investors in the project include Al-Mashriq Real Estate Company, The Palestinian Recycling Company (Tadweer), and Palestine Industrial Estates Development Company, the release said, adding that the Palestinian investment group the Siraj Fund also contributes to Nakheel.

"We hope that the Trust Fund's participation in this project will help generate interest from other potential investors in the agriculture sector in the West Bank," Kobayashi noted.


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