U.S. Report: Gaza Hothouses Face Financial Losses Due to Closures

Over 500 tons of produce grown in Gaza greenhouses had to be destroyed last week because of Israel's closure.

An official report of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Palestinian agricultural development corporation warns of "financial catastrophe" from the Gush Katif greenhouses purchased by the Palestinian Economic Development (PED) Company.

A report that reached Haaretz states that as a result of the closing of the Karni crossing since February 12, the company has incurred $450,000 in damages a day and the cumulative damage has reached $4.4 million.

PED's director general, Bassem Jaber, told Haaretz that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and coordinator James Wolfensohn, promised at the formation of the company and the acquisition of the Gush Katif hothouses that the Karni crossing would be open regularly for the passage of goods, but this promise was not kept. The American-Palestinian document confirms his claim.

According to the report, the company had to destroy 32 tons of peppers, 130 tons of cherry tomatoes, 33 tons of tomatoes, 85 tons of cucumbers and four tons of beans.

The reported stated that last week, 85 trucks loaded with 450 tons of agricultural produce arrived at the Karni crossing, but were forced to return. The company had to destroy all the produce that the trucks were transporting last week, plus 70 tons of fresh vegetables.

The report's authors note that the closure of the crossing came at the worst possible time - the height of the tomato, cucumber and pepper season as well as at the height of the season in Europe, when it is possible to get high prices for produce from the Gaza Strip. Instead of that happening, the vegetables are rotting in the hothouses and are thrown out.

In addition, the closing of the crossing did not allow for pesticides, boxes and other agricultural equipment to be brought in. The report stated that the closing of the crossing during this marketing season would lead to economic disaster for all produce in Gaza and the loss of an important source of income for residents of the area.