Palestinian Vegetables Sent To Israel for the First Time

ISRAELI shoppers will soon be buying Palestinian vegetables for the first time - and the hope is that they will be cheaper.

On Tuesday, under the Palestinian autonomy agreement signed in May, Israel allowed the first agricultural produce from Gaza and Jericho into the country. Under Israeli occupation, Palestinian farmers were forbidden to sell their goods in Israel so as to protect Israeli farmers from competition.

The Ministry of Agriculture has set up an $83 million compensation fund to cushion Israeli producers. It also has set quotas on some Palestinian goods, which will be phased out over four years.

Drought has helped push fruit and vegetable prices in Israel up by more than 100 percent in recent months, but the new imports should bring them down again, merchants say.

``We will buy produce from the autonomous regions if the price is right and the quality meets our standards,'' says Yoram Dar, an official with the Co-op Supermarket chain. ``And really, that's all the consumer cares about - price and quality.''

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