Story of Saleem, A Tomato Farmer Forced to Throw Away His Crops

"Israel made a policy to dispose of the tomato crowns before they are exported. This issue is dangerous, and certainly not according to scientific standards. It has nothing to do with science, or with production, technology, and it has nothing to do with the cleanliness and quality of crops," said Nizar Alwhaidi, General Manager at the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture

farmer in Gaza
Illustration. Saleem, a farmer in Gaza, suffers heavy losses as a result of Israel's arbitrary policies. (Special Document)

ACTNews, GAZA – Khalid Muhammad Saleem Alattar has been a farmer in northern Gaza for 40 years. He grows various types of vegetables such as potatoes, cucumbers, beans, and peppers. However, tomatoes have been the mainstay of his agriculture from which he has been able to support his family.

Saleem said his agriculture was doing well before the Israeli aggression began last Ramadan. "Tomatoes are our main source of income, and the price is very high. For farmers, each kilo of tomato costs 1 shekel (approximately USD 0.30)," said Saleem when met by Aksi Cepat Tanggap team in his agricultural land, Tuesday (7/6/2021).

However, conditions changed when the Israeli aggression began. Farmers in Gaza, including Saleem, are prohibited from farming. They cannot water the plants. A lot of tomatoes are not maintained and are eventually damaged. Israeli attacks also destroyed some of Saleem's tomato fields.

"This situation forces farmers to throw away their crops because we cannot sell them. It causes huge losses for us," he said.

The Israelis still made it difficult for the farmers in Gaza even though the attacks had stopped in June. The Israeli authorities make a new policy regarding the export of tomatoes out of Gaza, namely that farmers must remove the sepals or crowns of tomatoes before they are exported. Otherwise, the tomatoes will not be allowed out of Gaza.

This is certainly very detrimental to farmers. Removing the crown would both take extra time and lead to the tomato going off quicker.

"We were surprised when Israel ordered that the tomatoes to be exported must be without a crown. Tomatoes without a crown will not be useful for consumers. Hence, we stopped exporting because of strict restrictions. Israel does want products from Gaza to be exported," said Saleem.

ACT Palestine Team also interviewed Nizar Alwhaidi, a General Manager at the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture. Nizar says that the climate in Gaza is very suitable for farming. However, according to him, being a farmer in Gaza is difficult. Israel uses the agriculture sector to discipline the Gazan residents who intend to fight back.

"Israel deliberately crushes the infrastructure of the agricultural sector. In every aggression they committed, they also target agriculture. From my perspective, the destruction of agriculture is the destruction of the food security system in Palestine," explained Nizar.

"One of the examples is what happened last week when Israel decided to dispose of the tomato crowns before they are exported. This policy is very dangerous, and certainly unscientific. It has nothing to do with science, or with production, and technology, and it has nothing to do with the cleanliness and quality of crops," he added.[]