The name of Jericho city has been associated with banana fruit as a historic brand due to its high quality. The city is well known for the production of banana fruit because of its high temperature and humidity which make the soil fertile for banana cultivation.
Banana cultivators are working these days on banana picking as the harvest season commences in November.
Only 1,200 dunums planted with banana trees are remaining in Jericho after being previously spread everywhere in the city and its outskirts. Moreover, there are only 100 farmers who are still working in the cultivation of bananas in the city. This is attributed to many reasons including Israeli occupation policies, ignorance by people and the tendency to cultivate palm trees instead of bananas.
The banana farmer Mohammad Nujoum told a news agency reporter that planting banana needs big amounts of water. The Israeli occupation policy of taking control over most of the water springs in Jericho and the Jordan Valley has led to decreasing water amounts allocated for banana cultivation on the one hand and to increasing water salinity in the water wells making them unsuitable for planting banana on the other.
The production rate of a single dunum is estimated at four tons annually, he added. Jericho is no longer capable of producing 3,000 tons of bananas as it used to do in the past, which do not meet the need of the Palestinian market. Israeli production of bananas has accordingly become dominant in the market, Nujoum elaborated.
Another problem, in addition to shortage of water sources and water salinity, is the soil salinity and poor infrastructure for banana storage, he said. This requires support for the farmers in order to be able to continue the cultivation of banana which has been there since time immemorial, Nujoum highlighted.
He stressed that Israeli taking control of Ras al-Naba Spring in al-Auja area in Jericho and diverting its water to the illegal nearby settlements was the main reason for ruining the cultivation of banana in the area.
Engineer Mazen Awwad told a news agency reporter that profitability factor versus costs and market demands determine the trends of farmers. This has led to low tendency in cultivating bananas in favor of planting palm trees. “While, the profitability rate of one dunum of bananas is 300 dollars, the profitability rate of one dunum of palm trees is 3000 dollars which is ten times more”, he said.
A banana tree needs to be replaced every five years, while on the other hand, a palm tree lives for seventy years, which makes planting palm trees more valuable and beneficiary, Awwad said. Each dunum cultivated with bananas needs double the amount of water annually needed by a dunum of palm trees, he highlighted.
Farmers in Jericho demand that competent authorities come up with more useful agricultural policies that would contribute to supporting farmers and providing them with agricultural planning as well as protective and development strategies.