Mohammad Aladwan, a farmer in the Jordan Valley, said reopening of borders with Syria did not boost his business, but it actually backfired.
Aladwan, who along with several farmers used to export their produce to Syria and to other countries via Syria before the border crossing between the two countries was closed in 2015, said he was overjoyed when the crossing was reopened October 2018. But he Aladwan said he is not happy anymore about the reopening of the borders.
“Most of my farm’s produce used to be exported to Syria and Lebanon. I was hopeful after the crossing was reopened, but I did not benefit at all and it even became more difficult and costly to export to Syria and through Syria,” he told 7Dnews.
Syria recently imposed $1,400-$2,000 per shipment on Jordanian trucks entering Syria or transiting visa Syria, which caused an uproar among Jordanian farmers and unions that called for imposing similar fees on Syrian agricultural produce entering Jordan or going through Jordan to the Gulf countries.
“Our government needs to impose similar taxes…The Syrian farmers are now competing with us and they export their produce to the Gulf states via Jordan while paying less transit fees on their shipments,” said Aladwan.
Hamdan Sweilem, another farmer in the Ghor Safi area in Jordan, echoed similar remarks.
“We did not benefit at all from the reopening of the border crossing…It is illogical that we impose less fees on them while they are not importing from us and sending their produce via Jordan to nearby markets and compete with us,” he told 7Dnews.
“We tried to export to Syria several times, but they keep putting obstacles so the treatment should be reciprocal,” Sweilem added.
“Agricultural sector negatively affected”
“We were not able to export anything because of too many restrictions and high fees, which made it impossible to reenter the Syrian market,” Jordan Valley Farmers Union Head Adnan Khaddam told 7Dnews.
“Syrians benefited more than us….our farmers lost and if this situation continues they will keep incurring losses,” added Khaddam.
Before 2011, Jordan’s produce exports to Syria exceeded 200,000 metric tonnes per year. Jordan also exported more than 60,000 metric tonnes of produce to Russia, eastern European countries and Turkey via Syria before the border closure. In April 2015, Jordan closed the Jaber border crossing with Syria for security reasons. Passenger and cargo traffic was halted as a result of the escalating violence in the Syrian town of Naseeb, just across the border, some 80 kilometres to the north of Amman.
Economist Hosam Ayesh said Jordanian farmers were badly affected.
However, he urged more promotion of Jordanian agricultural produce.
“Although our farmers suffered and did not benefit, they also need to think of better marketing and promotion of their produce…Syrian farmers seem to be able to export to the Gulf states via Jordan, which means there is a market and Jordanian farmers need to enhance their competitiveness,” he told 7Dnews.
He called for systemic and institutional efforts to open new markets for Jordanian agricultural produce and promote for them.