By Tala Rimawi
JERICHO, October 29, 2013 (WAFA) – You roam around and all you feel is a sense of pride and accomplishment in the city of palm trees; Jericho, where the opening of the fifth exhibition of its “yellow gold,” the dates, took place on Monday.
Palestinians from all over the West Bank gathered in Jericho where local farmers displayed their date products for everyone to take a peak taste of their joy and pride product.
Dates are considered the second most important agricultural product in Palestine after olives.
“Planting 20,000 dunums of palm trees will have financial returns equivalent to what we get from planting one million dunums of olive trees,” said Abdul Majeed Sweilem, head of the Association of Palm Farmers.
While there were only 30,000 palm trees planted in Palestinian farms in 2006, this figure increased this year to 150,000 trees planted in 12,000 dunums of land, some of them located in Area C, which is under full Israeli military control. The goal is to reach 250,000 trees within the next five years planted in 20,000 dunums, said Sweilem.
Speaking at the festival, Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said the quality of the Palestinian dates is considered one of the best in the world.
He said the Palestinian farmers stood in the face of Israeli obstacles and measures and were able to bring up the production of dates to reach 3000 tons this year compared to less than 2000 tons produced in 2012. He said the goal is to reach 10,000 tons in the next few years.
Despite two decades of Palestinian control over Jericho’s economy following the Oslo accords, Israeli efforts to dominate the economy and Palestinian market have never ceased.
Yet, despite the obstacles, restrictions, and policies Israel put in the face of the Palestinian farmers, they were nevertheless able to produce a product that gained international quality certifications.
Hamdallah said the Palestinians are not going to allow the Israeli dates products from the Jordan Valley to overcome the Palestinian production.
‘We will continue to protect our product by monitoring the market to make sure settlement dates are not allowed in,’ he said in reference to Israeli attempts to flood the Palestinian markets with dates produced in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Jordan Valley.
‘If it wasn’t for the Israeli obstacles, palm tree cultivation in Jericho would be considered an ‘explosive’ development,’ said Sweilem.
The planting of palm trees requires new water policies in order to keep pace with the growth and development of palm trees cultivation, he said. ‘We are so much in need for new water policies to provide the necessary irrigation for the rise in cultivation of palm trees.’
Farmers have even used fish ponds to irrigate their palm tree fields with what has become fertilized water, helping as a result to improve the quality of the products.
Palestinians celebrated the opening of the fifth dates exhibition, where banners of palm trees and dates and Palestinian flags were hung everywhere and during which troupes performed traditional Palestinian songs and folkloric dabke dance and documentaries about the history of dates were shown.