A picture of conditions in Palestine and means of improving the situation in the orange grove industry was offered by I. Rokach, head of the Pardess company and head of the Jaffa Citrus Fruit Exchange, who is a member of the Palestine delegation of the Ottawa conference, prior to his departure for Ottawa.
Speaking at a meeting of the Economic Board for Palestine. Mr. Rokach said it had been hoped that Palestine would benefit by Imperial Preference, which despite constant efforts of the Economic Board and other, it had not been found possible to grant.
Even without Imperial Preference, however, Mr. Rokach declared, Palestine would do its best to compete with other producers, by lowering the cost of production, by better transportation helped now by the magnificent new harbor at Haifa by advertising in the old and new markets, by better grading and packing in modern packing houses, and by a Citrus Exchange formed among all orange co-operatives to govern shipments and sales in the best interests of the trade as a whole.
There are now about 150,000 dunams, 40,000 acres, of orange groves in Palestine, of which at least one-half are Jewish, Mr. Rokach said. Owing to the work involved on laying out the new groves and the seasonal work on the old there is at present practically no unemployment in Palestine a state of affairs which prevails in very few parts of the world today. Palestine now exports 3Â½ million boxes a year, which means employment for at least six months in the year for 10,000 people, who in the main manage to live for the whole year on what they earn during this time, and this number will increase with the constantly increasing crops.
Besides this direct labor, the industry supplies indirect sources of livelihood through railway and shipping traffic, roadmaking, construction of packing-houses, etc., etc.
The demand for the Jaffa orange has hitherto exceeded the supply, Mr. Rokach stated, and the profits on the industry have been very large. It must not be thought, however, that this happy state of affairs has resulted in the industry neglecting to make the progress which is necessary to its future prosperity. Improved methods of packing and grading are constantly being introduced, and there is an immense and hitherto almost untried field in advertisement. The by-products of the orange are fruit-juices, orange squash, pectin, essences for perfumery etc., and this branch of the industry is still in its infancy and can be enormously developed.
He was glad of this opportunity, Mr. Rokach said, of speaking to the members of the Economic Board, which has done so much for Palestine, and he reminded them that the pioneer of the citrus industry in Palestine was Sir Moses Montefiore, who started an orange grove in what is now Tel-Aviv.
The main reason for the present and undoubted future prosperity of the industry, Mr. Rokach claimed, is the unsurpassable quality of the Jaffa orange, which is universally acknowledged to be superior to all others. Climatic conditions in Palestine are ideal for its cultivation; frost, which is practically unknown in Palestine, has affected the crops of her greatest competitor, Spain, every year for the past few years, although Spain has great advantages of distance, with consequent cheaper delivery.
England, he went on, is the largest consumer of Jaffa oranges, and it will be seen, he said, how our markets can be developed, when it is realized that only six years ago Germany did not import any Jaffa oranges, and last year, in spite of crises and import restrictions, she imported 650,000 boxes at high prices. The London market can also be greatly developed; up to last year more oranges were bought in Hull and Manchester than in London, but the London demand is increasing year by year.