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Ending trade conflict, Israel and PA lift bans on each other’s produce

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reversed bans on each other’s fruit and vegetable imports, ending a short-lived trade conflict.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel ordered authorities not to permit Palestinian fruit and vegetable imports into Israel on December 17 after the PA instructed Palestinian meat-sellers to stop purchasing lamb from the Jewish state, Dalia Goldenberg, a spokeswoman for the minister, said in a phone call last week.

The PA responded to the ban on Palestinian fruit and vegetable imports with a decision to bar the entry of Israeli fruit, vegetable and poultry imports into Palestinian markets.

But on Sunday, Goldenberg said that Ariel had lifted the ban on Palestinian produce imports after PA Agriculture Minister Sufian Sultan sent a message to the Agriculture Ministry, stating that he would permit the import of Israeli-bred lamb into Palestinian markets.

Shortly after Ariel’s statement, the PA Agriculture Ministry announced it would also retract its ban of Israeli fruit, vegetable and poultry imports.

“The Agriculture Ministry announced the resumption of issuing permits for products that were allowed in before [Thursday]…after the Israeli side walked back its decision at the expense of our farmers and opened its border crossings once again to Palestinian fruits and vegetables,” the official PA news site Wafa reported.

In a statement last Wednesday, the PA Agricultural Ministry said it had banned Palestinian meat purveyors on December 2 from purchasing lamb from Israeli importers. The ministry said it made the decision after the price of lamb in the Palestinian market fell below its local cost of production.

Former PA agriculture minister Walid Assaf said that the Palestinians traditionally import approximately NIS 700-800 million ($185 million-$212 million) in fruits and vegetables every year as well as NIS 10 million ($2.6 million) in poultry.

Abbas Melhem, the director of the Palestinian Farmers Union, said in a phone call that Palestinian farmers annually send some NIS 207 million ($55 million) of produce to Israel and added that the economies of many areas of the West Bank, especially Tubas, Tulkarem and Jenin, rely on exporting fruits and vegetables to the Jewish state.

Source: Times of Israel

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