Gaza Furniture Producers Yearn to Export
    2010-12-12 20:14:49     Xinhua      Web Editor: Guo
Rushing from Gaza to the West Bank, Wadah Bssiso, a Gaza-based furniture producer, found he can not re-establish trade with his old clients after more than three years of absence.
Rushing from Gaza to the West Bank, Wadah Bssiso, a Gaza-based furniture producer, found he can not re-establish trade with his old clients after more than three years of absence.

"Most of my old clients are now importing from other producers in China and other countries," said Bssiso, who now produces just 10 percent of what he used to do prior to the blockade, "I realized that I can't re-establish trade with the West Bank."

The 60-year-old businessman, who rushed to the West Bank when he heard that Israel might expand exports from Gaza, then returned to Gaza, still hoping to restore his old clients there, which can repair his damage that caused by the Israeli blockade on the enclave since 2007.

What added more uncertainty is that the Israeli cabinet's decision last week was still vague. It does not say whether or not furniture and cloths would be allowed to be shipped. So far, Israel has only let agricultural products to leave Gaza through its commercial crossings.

The relaxation of the Israeli blockade started in June, after Israeli commando forces raided a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, killing nine activists. After June, almost all civilian goods were allowed to enter Gaza, but some construction materials like steel and cement are still banned.

Israel says the sanctions aimed at weakening the Islamic Hamas movement, but international reports and local observers say that Hamas was not affected by the blockade.

The entrance of wood under Israel's reviewed policies towards Gaza was a mixed blessing for Bssiso, whose business was closed for three years. Now he restarted his work, but he cannot find market for his products.

"The demand is low. Meanwhile, imported beds, tables and chairs are pouring into Gaza," he said.

Bssiso has more than one reason to believe that the so-called " easing of the blockade" did not bring any benefit to him, if not doubling the suffering. "We can barely cover the running costs and don't make any profit," he said.

The machines need maintenance, and "the productive efficiency of the professional, skilled workers has decreased due to their long staying at home," Bssiso, who opened his workshop in 1996, explained.

Today, Bssiso has only 15 workers in his factory where once more than 60 persons had worked.

In Gaza, there are around 250 carpentry and furniture workshops, the sector used to employ 12,000 people, now only 2,500 people were employed, said Bssiso, a member of the Wood Industries Union (WIU).

"When we have the opportunity to export, we would be competitive in every market," said Bssiso.

"The best market for us is the Israeli market," said Bssiso, noting that although the West Bank market was good, it is not like Israel's.

However, Bssiso doesn't think that he would be permitted to export his products to Israel.

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