AMMAN – Jordan Valley farmers plan to demonstrate outside the Prime Ministry next week to protest against plummeting prices of vegetable, particularly eggplants.

Zuhair Jweihan, president of the Jordan Exporters and Producers Association for Fruits and Vegetables (JEPA), noted that farmers, particularly in the Ghor Safi area, have been hit hard by low produce prices this year, adding that will urge the authorities find new markets to export their vegetables during Sunday's protest.

Farmers in Deir Alla, part of the Jordan Valley near the central region of the Kingdom, have dumped tonnes of eggplants in the streets as the price of a box of the produce is worth only JD0.20, Jweihan told The Jordan Times over the phone.

One box holds around 10 kilos of eggplant, according to the JEPA president.

He blamed the falling prices of vegetables on over production due to difficulties in exports to neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

He indicated that Syria was the largest importer of the Kingdom’s vegetables with annual shipments of over 200,000 tonnes.

“Iraq used to import almost same quantity,” Jweihan noted, adding the domestic market is "too small" to absorb the current levels of production.

Asked if exports to east European countries and Turkey are still going on, the JEPA president said the unrest in Syria, which used to be a transit route to Turkey and Europe, has negatively affected the volume of exports to these markets. 

“Both producers and exporters were hit by falling prices and limited markets,” he remarked.

Agriculture Ministry Spokesperson Nimer Haddadin said the ministry was working to resolve the issue.

“The farmers want the ministry to open new regional and international markets for their produce, as if the ministry is the one that has the authority to close or open markets,” Haddadin told The Jordan Times.

He noted that Agriculture Minister Ahmad Al Khattab held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the farmers' concerns, and will meet soon with all stakeholders in an attempt to find solutions.  

Haddadin added that the minister recently toured vegetable farms in the Jordan Valley with the Iraqi ambassador to show him the quality of the produce, which he said meets international standards.

The envoy promised to discuss resuming imports of Jordanian produce with officials in Baghdad, he said, adding that no answer has been received yet. 

According to Haddadin, the warm weather a few weeks ago resulted in doubling production quantities.

Noting that last year’s production was much lower than this year, he pointed out that the ministry’s experts had advised farmers to reduce production this year because of the situation in Syria.

Syria used to import around a third of the Kingdom's total production of 800,000 tonnes of vegetables and fruit every year, especially in winter, according to official figures.

Haddadin noted that 600 tonnes of produce entered Syria between Saturday and Wednesday this week, while before the unrest it was around the same figure on a daily basis.