The freshly-plucked oranges and ripe green vegetables glisten in the February sun in the crates and baskets of Tulkarem’s new wholesale market.
This is now the place to be if you are seeking the best produce from bountiful farms of the northern West Bank. With a population of nearly 60,000, Tulkarem is the third largest metropolitan area in the West Bank, after Hebron and Nablus. Residents depend mostly on agriculture as their main source of income, growing vegetables and citrus, olive and almond trees.
The old crowded market of Tulkarem couldn’t keep pace with the increasing number of farmers bringing their produce to sell. More space was urgently needed.
Thanks to nearly $400,000 from the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the Tulkarem Municipality’s $150,000 contribution, ANERA was able to build a new 4,000 square meter wholesale market, complete with stores, an administrative area, cafeteria and parking lot. The market organizes and facilitates the marketing and transportation of farmers’ agricultural produce, preserves produce quality and increases sales opportunities for poor farmers. Construction of the market provided 7,000 days of work for local residents.
By 9:00 AM, the 20 back-to-back spacious stores are already full. Twenty-four-year-old Fadi Salem sells a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. He is considered one of the best selling farmer-merchants at the market. He took advantage of some extra head space to build a small office where he can keep track of his sales. Fadi says the income helps him support his parents and four siblings.
Fadi is delighted with the market’s location outside the city center. Now, he says, he doesn’t have to worry anymore about traffic jams in the heart of the city, where the old market is located. The new market is accessible by a municipal road constructed, which is away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. And, Fadi adds his delight at having parking space for his farm vehicles, a safe and spacious store that accommodates all his produce and less pollution in the more open market area outside of the congested city center.
“The space in the old market is very tight and limited. Here, we have a better, more comfortable atmosphere, and enough space to work, expand and grow. I definitely encourage other farmers and merchants to move their businesses here,” he explains.
The market also boasts an awning that helps protect the vegetables and fruits from direct sun or rain. And it provides extra space for displaying products and negotiating deals.
The market has been operating since early in 2011 and benefits some 8,000 people. It also benefits the Tulkarem municipality, which earns income from store rents.