The agricultural sector is considered one of the most important sectors contributing to Jordan’s economy. It’s importance is not only limited to creating farming jobs. It contributes to the Kingdom’s exports and GDP. What is the state of the Jordanian agricultural sector today and what is required in order to boost its performance? What are the problems this sector is facing?
Here to discuss this subject with us today is the general manager of the Jordanian Farmers Union, Mahmoud Al-Ouran.
Mahmoud Al-Ouran: The agricultural sector is the generator of other economic sectors, whether industrial or commercial. For example, regarding the industrial sector, as you know the agricultural sector is now using the latest technology, therefore we are using plastic sheeting and drip irrigation. Also regarding the commercial sector, we are dealing with companies that manufacture seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. Therefore the agricultural sector is the real generator for the rest of the economic sectors.
During the last few years, many voices are calling for decision makers in Jordan to pay attention to this sector, because of its markedly different performance to a point where some experts said the Jordanian agricultural sector is dying. How accurate is that information and what problems does this sector face in the beginning of 2018?
Mahmoud Al-Ouran: The agricultural sector is facing two problems. The first one is the phenomenon of climate change and the other is the legislation and laws. Regarding the climate change phenomenon, it is a universal one, not man-made, therefore the solution lies in scientific research. While the other problem regarding legislation and laws, during the last six weeks, we faced two problems which were very critical to the agricultural sector; the first one is regarding expatriate labor and imposing new fees on permits which increased up to JOD 20-500. The second problem is imposing sales tax on agricultural production requirements, in addition to imposing a sales tax on agricultural crops. Now both problems, whether climate change or legislation have a very negative impact on the agricultural sector and will eventually cause the sector to relocate abroad, knowing that almost 70% of farmers rely on loans, either through banks, companies or intermediaries, which means the farmer today is in danger and threatened for not being able to pay back his debts due to marketing difficulties and crisis. The marketing crisis that happened is due to the unfortunate events in the neighboring countries, which led to closing border crossings in the way of Jordanian horticultural crops, whether it was a passage or a final destination for these crops, and of course I mean through Syria and Iraq. The Jordanian product is on demand in Syria and Iraq, and by passage I mean through Syria and Iraq towards the markets in Eastern Europe.
The agricultural sector in the Valley of Jordan is suffering significantly, according to some reports, because of farmers reluctance to cultivate their land and rent them to expatriates workers, the decline in demand on Jordanian agricultural products and the decline in the exports of the agricultural sector due to Jordan being in a critical region. Which led some of them last year to call for saving the sector by the decision makers, that included proposals to cancel all farmer’s debts. What are the proposed solutions today for restoring the Jordanian agricultural sector?
Mahmoud Al-Ouran: I will talk about all this successive governments, unfortunately they did not adopt the visions of His Majesty regarding this matter, even the government of his Excellency dr. Hani Al Al-Mulki in his first-formed Cabinet did not mention the agricultural sector, this was irritating to all who are interested in the agricultural sector, why was this sector excluded. Therefore, the sector is in severe need of a restructure, development of plans and strategies and establishing a body to regulate the work within the agricultural sector. The least we, as farmers, are hoping for is achieving His Majesty’s vision regarding the sector and its significance.
It is important to pay attention once more to what the agricultural sector is suffering from in the Valley of Jordan and to the economic importance of this file. Despite the fact that all civilizations and cultures realized the significance of Agriculture, some now are unaware that it is the beginning of all production operations in the human life.