Last month the country exported 100,000 tonnes of produce, after suffering declines in export volumes earlier in the year, according to government figures. June also saw 100,000 tonnes exported, an increase of more than 10% year-on-year, but in total the first half of the year saw shipments down 15%, at 391,000 tonnes, valued at US$324.5m.
A major factor in the decline was the closure of a key Syrian border crossing at Nasib in April, after Syrian rebels took control of the border post. Faced with the effective removal of a key market, Jordan’s farmers, along with other regional producers, faced a glut of produce.
Feeling the heat
More recently, a heatwave originating in the Indian subcontinent, pushing temperatures above 40C, caused more problems for exporters last week, disrupting shipments of fruit and vegetables, particularly tomatoes, Jordan’s main export crop. Banana growers in the Jordan Valley also warned their crops could see damage, with farmers already suffering the effects of water shortages in the area, according to Arabic daily Alghad.
But an agriculture ministry spokesman told the Jordan Times that exports had returned to normal as of the end of last week, with 3,400 tonnes of produce shipped out in 179 refrigerated trucks since the end of the heatwave. While he acknowledged there had been “damages”, the spokesman declined to provide details of agricultural losses caused by the heatwave.
Farmers demand price guarantees
But even before the extreme weather, Jordanian farmers were protesting the high volatility of produce prices in the country. Towards the end of July, the president of Jordan Exporters and Producers Association for Fruit and Vegetables, Saadi Abu Hammad, called on the ministry of agriculture to lift export barriers and institute a guaranteed minimum price for the country’s producers, according to government news agency Petra.
Hammad said tomato prices had fallen by more than 80% to as low as US$0.10 per kilo, down from US$0.56 in previous years. He said aubergine, cauliflower and courgette prices had also fallen, averaging between US$0.14 and US$0.21 per kilo.
He called on the government to “guarantee a minimum cost price for farmers”.
“Unless and until the amounts exported abroad are increased, the prices will continue to be less than the average at this time of year,” he said.
According to Hammad, though, some produce prices have risen dramatically. Lemons are now selling for US$2.82 per kilo, with potatoes at US$0.71 per kilo.