Saud Abu Ramadan
March 4, 2013 - 1:00am

The farm where Jamal Abu Najja grows spices and medicinal herbs, had been part of an Israeli settlement west of the southern Gaza town of Rafah until late August 2005 when Israel pulled out from the coastal enclave and evacuated 21 settlements.

Since then, the Palestinians are planting around one third of the 360-square kilometer Gaza Strip lands with various kinds of agricultural products, including fruits, vegetables and recently herbs and spices.

Abu Najja said in recent month, Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip faced a severe decline in exports of vegetables to Europe due to competition with African countries, including Egypt and Morocco.

"Therefore, we though of growing new agricultural products that may improve our financial profits," said Abu Najja, who attended last year in Berlin an agricultural exhibition on herbs and spices.

"We found out that producing and exporting medicinal herbs and spices to Europe is worth doing because "the demand is high," the Palestinian farmer added.

"There are 26 kinds of green medicinal herbs and spices that farmers in southern Gaza Strip are growing such as ginger, broccoli, dill, Cumin, basils, garlic and caraway," said Abu Najja, who owns a farm cultivated with various kinds of herbs and spices.

Ahmed el-Farra, another farmer from the city of Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip, said that the Israeli blockade imposed on the export of agricultural products from Gaza is now less than three years ago, adding that "after the war in November 2012, export of agricultural products increased."

In November last year, Israel waged an eight-day war on the Gaza Strip, leaving more than 140 Palestinians and six Israelis killed. The war ended after Egypt brokered a ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Islamic Hamas movement, and Israel agreed to ease restrictions on Gaza's export and import.

"We began to produce medicinal herbs and spices in October and exported them to Europe after the war," said el-Farra, adding that "In February we exported three loads of herbs and spices per week, each load 600 kilograms."

Mohamed al-Azayza, an activist in a joint Israeli-Palestinian rights group to facilitate free movement for the Palestinians at the crossings and terminals controlled by Israel, said "Our organization has been following up the process of exporting the medicinal herbs and spices from the Gaza Strip to Europe, to Russia and to Central America."

"The farmers in Gaza finally managed to freely export such kinds of products to Europe," al-Azayza added.


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