Relocating Gush Katif Greenhouses to Ashkelon, Negev to Cost NIS 360m

Amiram Cohen
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Amiram Cohen

The relocation of all of the Gush Katif greenhouses to Ashkelon and the western Negev will cost NIS 360 million.

Farmers will use the disengagement compensation payments they receive to fund 66 percent of the relocation expenses, the Agriculture Ministry will fund 25 percent, and 9 percent will be funded privately.

Gush Katif greenhouses cover 4,500 dunams, and each dunam costs NIS 80,000 to relocate. Of that area, 1,860 dunams are used for peppers and tomatoes, 480 for herbs and 450 for flowers and plants.

Until the compensation payments are distributed, the government will loan the Gush Katif farmers 50 percent of the relocation costs up to NIS 600,000, and will provide a grant of up to NIS 20,000 per dunam of greenhouse land. All told, the government will pay about NIS 330 million in greenhouse relocation costs.

Gush Katif farmers must present statistics on their agricultural activity to the the Agricultural Ministry's investment branch to receive the loans and grants. The ministry said it will approve the funds up to 14 days after farmers entitled to the money make their requests. The state-run Inbal company will distribute the loans and grants to the farmers.

Gush Katif farmers grow 320,000 tons of produce annually in greenhouses, earning a total of NIS 500 million, half of which comes from exports. In addition, Gush Katif has a large dairy barn that produces 5 million liters of milk a year, and raises 800 tons of turkeys.

The Disengagement Administration (Sela) has established a committee to deal with farmers' appeals of the amount of loans and grants to which the government says they are entitled. The committee will be headed by Sela Director Yonatan Bassi, Accountant General Yaron Zelekha, and Agriculture Ministry Director General Yossi Shai.

The Agriculture Ministry said yesterday that the Kibbutz Movement had announced it would recruit volunteers to help Gush Katif farmers dismantle their greenhouses and rebuild them elsewhere. The recruitment drive is already underway.

Many Gush Katif farmers, who employ 600 foreign workers and 1,200 Palestinians, have begun the process of dismantling and rebuilding greenhouses, which requires much time and expertise.

The Agriculture Ministry, meanwhile, appeared skeptical about reports that the World Bank would buy the greenhouses from the farmers for $15 million, and give them to the Palestinians. The government must reject the proposal, a senior ministry official said, because Israel likely would have a large produce surplus if Palestinians work the greenhouses and sell the produce to Israel, while Gush Katif farmers build new greenhouses elsewhere. The official also said most of the farmers would rather relocate the greenhouses with government funding than sell them to the World Bank.

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