Agricultural representatives commended the reopening of the Karameh-Turaibil border crossing between Jordan and Iraq, saying it will boost the ailing sector.
The reopening of Jordan’s only border crossing with Iraq comes at the “right time” as farmers prepare their lands for winter crops, which are Iraq’s main agricultural imports from the Kingdom, sector representatives underlined.
Jordan’s exports of fruits and vegetables to Iraq did not fully stop when the border was closed, but they largely dropped, which caused losses for farmers, producers and exporters of fruits and vegetables, according to sector insiders.
“Exporters and producers resorted to much longer and costlier routes through Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to reach the Iraqi market. This increased the transportation fees and much of the exported produce used to get spoiled, thus making exports to Iraq almost unfeasible,” President of the Jordan Exporters and Producers Association for Fruit and Vegetables Saadi Abu Hammad said.
Exports of fruits and vegetables to Iraq have dropped by 70 per cent since the border closing, Abu Hammad said, noting that Jordanian produce has lost its competitiveness in the Iraqi market since then.
“But the reopening of the borders will now facilitate the exporting of fruits and vegetables to Iraq, and we expect the exports to increase from now on,” Abu Hammad told The Jordan Times. Agriculture sector insiders regard the Karameh-Turaibil border crossing as the gateway for Jordanian produce to reach the Iraqi market.
The government decided to close the crossing in the summer of 2015 after Daesh militants seized control of some areas near the borders. President of the Jordan Valley Farmers Union Adnan Khaddam welcomed the reopening of the borders with Iraq, noting that it is a “much-awaited move” for farmers.
“Reopening of the borders gave us hope and we are optimistic. Many farmers abandoned cultivating their lands in the Jordan Valley over the past year, but they are now preparing their lands again for winter crops,” Khaddam told The Jordan Times.
Iraq mainly imports tomato, eggplant, cucumber, potato and citrus fruits from Jordan, among other crops, according to Khaddam. “The news will positively affect farmers and exporters alike. We hope that reopening of Jordan’s borders with Syria is next…, Syria is the lungs of the agricultural sector of Jordan,” Khaddam said.
Also in 2015, Jordan closed the Jaber border crossing with Syria for security reasons, while Ramtha, the other border crossing with the war-torn country, has been closed for nearly five years. Zuhair Jweihan, vice president of the Jordan Exporters and Producers Society for Fruits and Vegetables, said that the reopening of the Karameh-Turaibil border crossing will lift up the situation of exporters of agricultural produce.
“Closure of the borders incurred hefty additional fees for exporters and producers as they used to go through Kuwait to reach Iraq. The reopening will help cut down the expenses and will also reduce the losses which farmers have endured over the past two years,” Jweihan noted.
Before the closure of the borders with Iraq, a total of 100 refrigerated trucks carrying 2,000 tons of fruits and vegetables used to travel daily to the neighboring country, according to Jweihan. Zaher Jamal, founder of the Jordanian Cooperative Society for Refrigerated Trucking, said that drivers of refrigerated trucks were “delighted about the news”.
“This [the reopening] is great news. We have been awaiting this for a longtime and we hope it will reverse the bad situation of refrigerated transport since the closure of the borders with Iraq,” Jamal told The Jordan Times.
Since the closure of the borders, some 70 per cent of more than 1,000 refrigerated trucks have ceased operation, according to Jamal, who noted that the selling value of refrigerated trucks has also dropped by $20,000.
But, as sector insiders welcomed the reopening of the borders with Iraq, they also said that several challenges lie ahead. As Jordanian agricultural exports to the Iraqi markets dropped, other competitors flourished, they said, noting that alternative sources for produce are now strong in the Iraqi market.
“Iranian produce have filled the Iraqi market during the past two years, while cultivations in the south of Iraq have expanded, which means that reliance over Jordan’s produce is not expected to be the same,” Jweihan expected.
He called on the government and sector representatives to hold and participate in agricultural exhibits in Iraq to promote their produce. Meanwhile, Oran said that the 30 per cent of custom fees imposed by the Iraqi government over Jordanian fruits and vegetables last year will reduce their competitiveness in the Iraqi market.
“We urge the Jordanian government to exert efforts along with the Iraqi government to remove the 30 per cent custom fees,” Oran noted.