A thousand acres of agricultural land in the Jordan Valley are subject to desertification.. What are the reasons for that?
The agricultural sector in Jordan has become repelling farmers and investors.
Like a widow afflicted with her children, thousands of fertile agricultural acres in the Jordan Valley lack their farmers, as there are no rotation of agricultural plows, no pipes to irrigate them, and no agricultural seedlings that incubate them.
On the outskirts of his agricultural unit in the Southern Shouneh region, farmer Salem Al-Satiri (49 years) looks at the condition of his wasteland that was invaded by strange trees after he stopped cultivating it for the third year in a row.
The production requirements, “their costs are high, the quantities of irrigation water are scarce, and the prices available are high and without the capacity of the farmer,” Al-Sati told Al-Jazeera Net. This is offset by poor marketing, and the prices of vegetable products are low in the central vegetable markets, and do not cover half the value of the costs, according to his speech.
The agricultural sector in Jordan suffers – according to specialists – a number of challenges, most notably the high costs of energy, transportation and production requirements of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, which reached 300% in some varieties during the past year 2021.
Al-Sati shares his complaint about the difficult conditions of the farmers, the owner and investor in the cultivation of bananas and dates, Harun Badr Al-Adwan, who told Al-Jazeera Net that “the scarcity of water, its high prices and the costs of desalination from saline ground wells, prevent the cultivation of thousands of acres of agricultural land.”
Add to this – and the talk of aggression – the costs of incoming agricultural labor and high work permits, and high prices for energy from electricity and oil derivatives, all of which led to farmers’ reluctance to rent agricultural units, and the cessation of vegetable production, which threatens food security during the coming period.
According to statements by the Jordanian Minister of Water and Irrigation, Muhammad al-Najjar, more than “70,000 dunams suitable for agriculture in the Jordan Valley are not exploited due to the lack of irrigation water, in addition to 300,000 acres of agricultural land in the Jordan Valley that receive only half of the quantities needed for their exploitation, which negatively affected the soil quality, and led to a decrease in the amount of agricultural crops.
The requirements of agricultural production, including fertilizers, pesticides, and plastic materials, witnessed an increase in most of them, with the exception of seeds, the head of the Syndicate of Traders and Producers of Agricultural Materials, Muhammad Baibars, told Al-Jazeera Net, adding that types of fertilizers had a price increase of 300%, while the price of types of pesticides reached 100%, and 50 % for plastics.
Baibars – the representative of the private sector importing these supplies – attributed the reason for this to the high shipping costs and the high prices globally, in addition to the fact that the fertilizer-producing countries, especially China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, prevented the export of fertilizers as protective measures for the agricultural sectors in those countries, which deprived the importing countries of that substance. .
The steady rise in the prices of production inputs has prompted agricultural companies and traders to stop financing farmers with these materials in what is known between them as “deferred sale until harvest and harvest,” which led to farmers emigrating their lands and stopping farming, according to farmers and traders.
Specialists in the agricultural sector expect that the prices of agricultural inputs will continue to rise until the middle of this year, and that the second half will witness the beginning of a gradual decline in prices.
The Secretary-General of the Ministry, Muhammad Al-Hiyari, says to Al-Jazeera Net that the Ministry of Agriculture, in turn, has opened the door to importing production requirements to create a state of competition among importers, with the aim of reflecting it on farmers, explaining that global rises were reflected in local markets.
With regard to the challenge of water scarcity and low rainfall, the ministry launched a plan to dig 10,000 wells to collect rainwater, and construct 100 dams and earthen pits to collect rain, distributed over the Kingdom’s governorates, according to Al-Hiyari.
To counter the rise in expatriate worker permits, the Ministry of Labor reduced the fees for these permits by 100 dinars ($140) starting this year to support the economic sectors.
Last Sunday, the Jordanian Cabinet decided to extend the exemption of 75% of the fees imposed for the year 2022 on agricultural and horticultural commodities intended for export, in order to serve the agricultural sector and horticultural exports, and alleviate marketing bottlenecks.
The delay in the rainy season and the drop in precipitation from the beginning of the season exacerbated the suffering of farmers, Adnan Khaddam, head of the Jordan Valley Farmers Union, told Al Jazeera Net, explaining that 75% of farmers are unable to cultivate their lands due to water scarcity, lack of financial financing, and high production costs, with low prices. Vegetable products, and the decline in government support for the sector.
The agricultural sector has become a factor of “expelling farmers and investors,” Khaddam adds, warning of the danger to food security in light of the decline in cultivated areas, and the elimination of the steadfast few farmers.
Specialists believe that the crises facing the agricultural sector in the Jordan Valley areas have created economically and socially fragile societies, especially as these areas suffer from high rates of poverty and unemployment and a low standard of living.
The state of the “difficult” agricultural sector in the Jordan Valley areas is not only the result of the Corona epidemic crisis, but has extended – according to specialists – 10 years ago due to the suspension of supplying export markets, especially the countries of Eastern Europe, Turkey and Russia, after the Syrian borders were closed due to the crisis there.