Jordanian farmers destroy tons of tomatoes in protest

Published January 20th, 2016 - 08:01 GMT

Southern Jordan Valley farmers on Tuesday destroyed dozens of tons of their tomato crops in protest against the lack of government intervention to curb their losses, according to a union leader.  

The farmers, who are witnessing their fifth season of losses due to the closure of the Syrian and Iraqi borders, demanded that the government compensate them for the losses of last season.

Jordan Valley Farmers Union President Adnan Khaddam estimated farmers' losses this season at JD2 million, adding that tomato crops were not sold at the central market over the past three days. 

Meanwhile, exporting produce to Gulf Arab countries does not solve the problem completely, given that they grow some vegetables and do not depend entirely on imports, said Zuhair Jweihan, president of the Jordan Exporters and Producers Association for Fruit and Vegetables.

He told The Jordan Times that local production of tomatoes currently exceeds 1,000 tonnes daily, while daily local consumption is around 400 tonnes.

This "overproduction" could be avoided through further diversification of produce, Jweihan said, but only if accompanied by a ban on imports as a measure to protect farmers.

He noted that farmers previously grew different varieties of beans, but the import of the same products made local products uncompetitive.

Khaddam told The Jordan Times that farmers do diversify their crops, but the prices of produce such as cauliflower, zucchini, cucumbers, aubergine and peppers have also decreased sharply.

Jweihan expected the problem to snowball in the coming days, since tomato crops in greenhouses in the northern Jordan Valley have yet to enter the market.

Commenting on the issue, Agriculture Ministry Spokesperson Nimer Haddadin highlighted the need for farmers to further diversify their products and to allocate more land for onions and potatoes.

He told The Jordan Times that the weather conditions this season and the large areas of cultivated lands contributed to increasing the supply of crops.

Haddadin reiterated the ministry's efforts to facilitate exports and search for new markets, such as Russia, adding that border closures with Syria and Iraq are issues "beyond the ministry's ability to handle".

The official noted the Kingdom exports up to 600 tons of tomatoes to the Gulf Arab market every day.

In remarks to The Jordan Times earlier this week, Haddadin said Jordan's exports of fruit and vegetables to Gulf Arab countries have been increasing since the beginning of the year, with some 900 tonnes of produce exported daily.

By Dana Al Emam

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