Exhibitors and visitors at the Gulfood exhibition. Saudi, Kuwaiti, Qatari and Emirati distributors
Dubai - Arabstoday
Dubai Palestinian companies, struggling with hurdles imposed by the Israeli occupation at home, are aiming to expand their presence in the Gulf to boost exports, they said. A sluggish Palestinian market, the rise of olive
oil prices due to the Israeli destruction of farms and the occupation\'s
continued choking of Palestinian economic activity are driving these companies to seek international markets, they told Gulf News.
During Gulfood they tried to secure local and regional distributors for their products, banking on demand from the large communities of Palestinian refugees here and the renowned quality of Palestinian olive oil, they said on the sidelines of the exhibition.
\"We are using the advantages of Gulfood and our participation here. This is a window to get into the international market. It\'s our first time as a company to participate and we hope to find distributors and wholesalers especially in the UAE and Arab world,\" said Adly Natsheh, managing director of Hebron-based Al Salam Group that specialises in frozen vegetables.
The Gulf is the next strategic market for Palestinian companies as they can transport their products through Jordan, he said.
They have seen interest from Saudi, Kuwaiti, Qatari and Emirati distributors during Gulfood, Palestinian exhibitors said.
Tucked into a corner, the Palestinian pavilion featured just six companies this year.
Palestinian exhibitors are calling for more support from the Gulfood organisers for those numbers to increase.
\"We hope the organisers can give Palestinian companies some attention because the situation in Palestine does not permit us to be presented properly compared to other countries like preferential prices, support with the media on the floor,\" said Ziad Anabtawi, chairman and chief executive of Al Ard Palestinian Agri-Products. \"They need to bring the attention of exhibitors and visitors to our presence and products.\"
Palestinian companies are facing triple the time and up to 20 per cent higher costs to export their products compared to Israeli traders, they said.
\"Israeli obstacles are not just on exports in the logistical sense, but on the whole supply chain for any Palestinian product, industrial or agricultural,\" said Anabtawi.
They exert tough controls on the movement of goods and people, exhibitors said. Facing delays on the road due to random checks at Israeli checkpoints, the companies are losing time and money while their goods spoil.
It takes one month and costs $120 (Dh440) a day to rent temperature-controlled containers plus the time required to cut through the red tape to procure necessary documents from various ministries to transport one container of frozen veggies, said Natsheh.
\"The borders and checkpoints are controlled by Israel and we have to finish procedures with the Palestinian authorities and then go through a complex and laborious routine with the Israeli authorities. The products get spoilt during delays with problems that increase costs,\" he said. \"The checks are just an excuse to stop exports, not just for us but all Palestinian companies.\"
Transportation costs and preserving products during the delays increase costs by 20 per cent, he said.
The increased costs make Palestinian products more expensive and therefore less competitive in international markets, said Anabtawi.