Strawberries from Palestinian growers will be on sale as usual in the UK during the next couple of weeks, according to Israeli exporter Agrexco.
The security fence that separates Palestinian-controlled areas from Israel has effectively cut the growers off from their market and restricted access to labour, supplies and expertise. War is still being waged between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants.
But Agrexco strawberry manager Assaf Adar said he hoped restrictions on movement between the two countries should not hit strawberry exports. "We have reached an agreement with the Palestinian Authority," he said. "If the Palestinians are clever enough not to make any terror attacks near the border, then the terminal will stay open."
Palestine counts 200ha of strawberry cultivation but nearly 400 growers, only 24 of whom are certified to Eurepgap level.
Production this year will hit 1,500t, with 200t coming to the UK, mostly for wholesale.
"We have to work with co-ops and packhouse bosses who understand the standards," said Adar.
More could be sent to the UK and even to multiples if security improves. "Buyers like to meet the growers and inspect facilities. They can't do this in Palestine at present. I believe it will come, but whether that's in six months or five years is anybody's guess."
The fruit will be exported under the Coral brand, with its origin stated as Palestine. It will be dwarfed by Israel's UK exports of about 1,200t, most of which ends up in multiple retailers.
Agrexco aims to cover the difficult winter market until February, before Spanish strawberries pull EU prices down. This year it will export more of its Israeli-grown Yuval variety than ever - about 480t. It carries a 15% premium as it is sweeter than other varieties and more uniform in size and shape.
Adar hopes to shift up to 70% of Israeli production to Yuval in coming years.