Gazans delight in locally produced sweets

A shop employee holds up jars of the Gazan-produced ‘Natalia’. (AFP)
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Updated 14 February 2020

Gazans delight in locally produced sweets

GAZA CITY: Off a bumpy dirt road in Gaza city, a group of children stood outside a half-open factory door, desperate to get their hands on what was being made inside.

“We want chocolate!” they shouted at a worker as he left the Al-Arees factory, which despite daunting obstacles churns out treats ranging from chocolate-covered biscuits to a Gazan version of a world famous spread, dubbed here ‘Natalia’.

Buckling in the face of candy-crazed kids, the man popped behind the door and returned with enough free chocolate to rot their growing teeth.

Al-Arees’s products are Gazan but their components are not, as few of the basic raw ingredients are produced in the impoverished Mediterranean coastal strip.

The factory relies on chocolate from as far afield as Argentina, sugar from African countries and dried eggs from the Netherlands, with other essentials imported from Turkey and Israel.

Israel controls all goods that enter Gaza, imposing a blockade that tightened after the tiny enclave was seized by the Islamist group Hamas in 2007.

Getting them into Gaza requires patience and money.

“From Ashdod we pay for workers and trucks that take these goods to the Kerem Shalom border crossing (between Gaza and Israel),” said Wael Ai, head of Al-Arees.

“Then you take them out of the truck for checks, then onto another truck from Gaza and after about 500 meters you have another checkpoint for Hamas,” he added.

“I pay customs twice,” he told AFP, meaning once in Ashdod where Israel collects fees on behalf of the official Palestinian government based in the West Bank and then in Gaza to Hamas.

Due to Gaza’s electricity shortages, Ai has installed three fuel-guzzling generators. “If you want anything done in Gaza you have to do it yourself,” he said.

Local factories also make Crimpos, a large marshmallow coated in a thick layer of chocolate.

Despite ongoing tensions, Israel and Hamas have reached a series of agreements over the past year that have slightly eased tensions.

That fragile accord led to an event in December which, for a Gazan producer, could fairly be described as momentous: for the first time in years Gaza exported sweet goods.

Eight tons of Crimpos were cleared for export to Bahrain, crossing through Israel and the West Bank to Jordan, and onward to the Gulf Arab state.

After increased Gaza rocket
fire following Trump’s peace proposal, Israel again tightened the export rules and canceled 500 permits for Gazans to work in Israel.

But Wadiya remains optimistic.

“If you can succeed in Gaza, you can succeed anywhere.”

Mexican brewer of Corona beer producer halts production over virus

Updated 03 April 2020

Mexican brewer of Corona beer producer halts production over virus

  • Measure in line with the Mexican government’s order to suspend all non-essential activities until April 30
  • Corona beer has been the punchline of jokes and memes and online rumor

MEXICO CITY: The Mexican brewer of Corona beer said Thursday it was suspending production because of the health emergency in the country over the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grupo Modelo — whose brands also include Pacifico and Modelo — said the measure was in line with the Mexican government’s order to suspend all non-essential activities until April 30 to slow the spread of coronavirus.
“We are in the process of lowering production at our plants to the bare minimum,” the company said in a statement, adding it would complete the suspension in the following days.
Mexico’s government has said that only key sectors such as agribusiness will be able to continue to function.
Grupo Modelo said it was ready to operate with 75 percent of its staff working remotely to guarantee the supply of beer, if the government agreed.
Mexico’s other major beer producer Heineken — which makes the Tecate and Dos Equis brands — could also stop activities on Friday, the Reforma newspaper said, although the company did not confirm the report.
On Wednesday, the northern state of Nuevo Leon, where Heineken’s Mexican operations are based, said it would stop the production and distribution of beer, which led to panic buying.
Since the start of the virus crisis, Corona beer has been the punchline of jokes and memes, and an online rumor said sales in the US dropped by around 40 percent after the outbreak.
However, in late February, Constellation Brands, which owns the Corona label, denied the rumor and said sales had stayed strong in the US even as the virus has spread internationally.
Mexico has so far registered over 1,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 50 deaths.