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Jordan: Safety concerns as Syrian produce floods market

Since Syrian fruits and vegetables started to flood the local market following the reopening of the Jordanian-Syrian borders last month, consumers have expressed concern over the safety of food imported from the war-torn country.

The shiny red Zabadani apples and the yellow-hued Syrian pears can now be found in piles at stores, but consumers are hesitant to purchase produce imported from Syria, saying the fruits and vegetables could be polluted with chemicals from the bombings over the past eight years.

“It is absolutely heart-warming to see that Syrian products are back in the local market, that the borders reopened and that the war in Syria is coming to an end, however, we all know that Syria had witnessed bombing daily since 2011, and sometimes with chemical weapons,” eighth-grade teacher Muntaha Rawahneh told The Jordan Times.

She also said she was worried that Syrian fruits and vegetables could have absorbed chemicals from the polluted soil, thus becoming dangerous to people’s health.

Abu Sami Awad, a civil service retiree, said that in addition to agricultural produces’ possible contamination, inspections by agriculture and health authorities on farmers and producers “must have been absent during the war”.

Before the crisis broke out seven years ago, Jordan exported more than 250,000 tonnes of fruit and vegetables to Syria and Europe every year. Jordan’s farmers and the entire agricultural sector suffered huge losses after the closure of the borders, as Jordan’s annual production of fruit and vegetables at that time stood at around 2.5 million tonnes, 75 per cent of which was produced in winter and half of that was destined for export.

Very soon, Jordan will start importing onions and potatoes from Syria, noting that this will cause a drop in prices of vegetables in the local market.

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