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Jordan Valley farmers welcome halt to citrus imports

By Bahaa Al Deen Al Nawas - Sep 17,2019 - Last updated at Sep 17,2019

AMMAN — The Agriculture Ministry coordinates with farmers to protect local produce, the Jordan Valley Farmers Union said on Tuesday. 

There were reports of farmers protesting against the import of citrus fruits from abroad, President of the Jordan Valley Farmers Union Adnan Khaddam told The Jordan Times.

 He confirmed that Minister of Agriculture and Environment Ibrahim Shahahdeh has halted the import from the beginning of August until February next year in order to protect local fruit crops. 

"The farmers provided the ministry with the production rates and the minister took the decision based on them. Last year the sales of citrus fruit in particular went well," Khaddam said.

However, according to Khaddam, farmers are suffering in general because of the continuing deterioration of the sector. Around 23,000 of them are wanted in light of financial dues accumulated because of the loans they took to work on their lands and the losses they suffered afterwards, he said. 

Khaddam expected that the space of farming lands will drop down by 40 to 50 per cent as of this season, and said about 20 per cent of those who are able to retain their lands will not be able to handle the finances of farming and planting on them, which evinces how the sector is “falling apart and requires immediate attention”.

Nawash Al Yazjeen, a farmer from the Jordan Valley, told The Jordan Times that ever since the Syrian crisis and closures of borders in 2011, the export routes to Europe and Russia closed, which is "the main and direct reason why the agricultural sector in Jordan suffers".

Farmers are unable to practise their profession either because of accumulated debts, the inability to export or fear of investing and then suffering losses, he said.

"There is enough produce to cover the Kingdom's needs but the surplus goes nowhere and ends up turning into losses," Yazjeen said.

The private-sector factories that provide farmers with farming materials, such as fertilisers and agricultural vaccines, are in debt by more than JD450 million, according to Yazjeen. 

There used to be around 70,000 greenhouses in the Jordan Valley, 30,000 of which were designated for European and Russian produce.

The produce was delivered through Jordanian traders who had agreements with Russian and Turkish traders and transported it inside refrigerator trucks from the valley, so that in seven to eight days it would reach Europe and Russia through Syria and Turkey, he said. 

"The only solution is to find export routes to those markets as the government does not have enough money in the budget to support farmers, and using planes to deliver cargo would be very expensive,” he noted.

Citrus farmer Khaled Farah said that the import of the fruit has stopped, praising the minister's efforts to help farmers in this regard.

"Last year's season went well; this year's season is going well, and we hope that things turn out for the better in the future too," he said. 

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