GAZA CITY: Palestinian businessman Wael Al-Wadyya has much hope for an economic breakthrough, after Israel allowed his Gaza-based company to market its products in West Bank markets, for the first time in 14 years.
Al-Wadyya, who is the general manager of the Saray Al-Wadyya company, which his family owns in Gaza, is looking forward to restoring the production capacity that the company had before Israel tightened the siege on the Gaza Strip, after Hamas took control of it by armed force in 2007.
Sarayo Al-Wadyya is the first company in Gaza that was allowed to export some of its food products to reach the West Bank cities.
Since Nov. 22, Israel has allowed four shipments, containing only two types of sweets and snacks, out of 50 items produced by the company, to reach West Bank markets through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the only commercial crossing designated for the passage of goods and goods to and from Gaza.
“This permission does not mean that the Israeli restrictions on the movement of marketing in the West Bank and exports abroad have disappeared, but it is an important step, and we are looking for more facilities,” Al-Wadyya said to Arab News
The company used to distribute 60-70 percent of its total food products in the West Bank before the imposition of the blockade, which caused the production capacity of the company’s factory to be reduced by less than half, due to Israeli restrictions on marketing in the West Bank, as well as exporting abroad.
He hopes that the production capacity of the factory, which was established in 1985 and obtained a few months ago the international certificate (ISO 22000) for the quality of food standards, will rise to 90 percent in the event that all items are allowed to be marketed in the West Bank, whose markets are many times greater than their counterparts in Gaza.
Al-Wadyya said: “Our products reached Europe and Gulf countries before the West Bank, which is a few kilometers away from us, and had it not been for the standard specifications of quality, Israel would not have responded to European pressures that it was subjected to, and which led it to allow marketing in the West Bank.”
The company currently employs 150 people. The general manager of the company expects that the number will more than double if all the factory products are allowed to be marketed outside Gaza.
About 2 million people in the enclave are suffering from several crises, which have caused unemployment rates to rise to 46 percent, and the poverty rate to reach 53 percent.
Economists expect that allowing Gaza’s factories to export abroad and market in the West Bank — if it continues — may contribute to saving the “almost collapsed” industrial and commercial sector in Gaza.
The executive director of the General Federation of Palestinian Industries, Khader Shaniora, confirmed that industries in Gaza in all its sectors face great challenges due to Israeli restrictions, which have incurred heavy financial losses over the past years, and caused the collapse of many companies and factories.
“Gaza products are able to compete not only in the West Bank market, but also in international markets. Five factories have successfully proven this, one of which is Sarayo Al-Wadyya, by obtaining the highest international quality certificate, and soon five other factories will obtain the same certificate,” Shaniora told Arab News
The editor-in-chief of the Gaza-based Al-Eqtisadiah newspaper, Muhammad Abu Jayab, said that allowing Gaza’s products to reach the West Bank would “create thousands of job opportunities in light of a crisis of poverty and stifling unemployment, in addition to its contribution to pushing economic indicators towards growth.”
According to the monitoring and documentation of Palestinian NGOs, only 800 industrial establishments in various sectors continued to operate at low capacity and resisted collapse, out of the 2,000 establishments that were operating in Gaza before the imposition of the blockade and the division in 2007.