Made in Gaza juice feels the squeeze in local market

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The Palestine Food Industries in Gaza City is producing a variety of locally made food and drinks, but although they take pride in the quality of their products, they are finding it difficult to stand out in a market flooded with similar imported goods.

During a visit to the “Fresh” juice factory, which employs around 30 men and women in production, marketing and distribution, workers are quick to point out that the quality of their product is higher than the Turkish, Egyptian, Israeli, Emirati and Chinese juice that flood the market in Gaza.

“Our product is good, excellent, even though the people have this idea that an Israeli product is higher quality and that is not what we know. Our product is much better quality than the Israeli’s, but this picture is not clear to the public,” says factory worker Yousef Abu Adra.

The public’s misconception or distrust of locally produced product is a hurdle difficult to cross, as the company is unable to expand beyond the local market.

”I am forbidden from exporting. I am not allowed to export any products outside of the Gaza Strip. My market is limited, it is the Gaza Strip only,” says Ibraheem Swaity, head of the factory.

While he encourages free market and competition, he feels the rules and regulations should be tighter.

“There should be free competition, but we ask for an increase in taxes or the ban of products that are not up to the standard, because most of these products are not up to the standard,” says Swaity.

Local supermarkets in Gaza offer a large selection of juices produced in various parts of the world, and posters are plastered on the walls to encourage residents to choose Palestinian products over imported ones.

But some residents are skeptical about the claim that locally produced goods are better.

“80 percent better, not 100 percent but 80,” says Mustafa Manaa, who’s shopping at the supermarket.

“There are some products where local production is better. But some local products are not good quality products or up to standard,” says shopper Khaled Islam.

While it’s true that some local products cannot compete with their imported counterpart in terms of quality, some believe Made-In-Gaza juice can hold its place against any competitor.

“There is good volume [of juice] sold. It is actually good and competes with the imported products. Even the items from the West Bank such as ‘Capi’ - one of the products of the Coca-Cola company in the West Bank. It also strongly competes with the imported product,” says supermarket manager Hani al Yazi.

The share of exports in the Palestinian economy is one of the lowest in the world according to the World Bank, and almost a quarter of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank are unemployed, contributing to the already shrinking productive sectors.