Gaza soda bottler opens West Bank site to deal with siege

May 22, 2019
Fears about fragile Gaza economy

7-Up production at the Yazji Group soft drink factory in Gaza City, August, 2005

Adnan Abu Amer reports in Al-Monitor

As many Gaza Strip-based businesses have struggled under the 12-year-long Israeli blockade, unable to make a sustainable profit, some are driven to search for new and alternative markets despite warnings of potential harm to the local economy.

One of those companies, Pepsi Palestine, has spent four years establishing a soda bottling factory in the West Bank and is now able to serve that market directly. The company, affiliated with bottler Yazji Group, had shipped its products to the West Bank from its facilities in Greece and Jordan, paying steep transportation costs and tariffs.

Pepsi Palestine media director Hammam Yazji told Al-Monitor, “Israel bans the exportation of our products from Gaza to the West Bank, but it allows products to move in the opposite direction. We had to establish a factory in the West Bank, where production costs less. We also employed people, and the Palestinian Authority [PA] offered us incentives such as expediting the issuance of needed permits and governmental procedures.”

The company, however, is maintaining its Gaza Strip factory despite dropping sales due to the economic situation there.

Yazji Group and other companies in Gaza say they open branches in the West Bank because the latter has enough raw materials, electrical power around the clock and the necessary infrastructure, unlike Gaza. Israel also continues to ban certain production tools and packaging equipment — anything it thinks terrorists could put to use — from entering the Gaza Strip.

The new facility in the West Bank is considered one of the newest and most modern soda factories in the Middle East. Yazji Group said construction work on the plant in the Jericho industrial zone was completed in February at a cost of $25 million. The 10,000-square-meter (107,639-square-foot) plant employs 72 people, with the number set to rise to 150. The factory also has warehouses for storage and raw material, and water-treatment facilities.

The company just announced its first shipment to the Gaza Strip on April 30.

“We are happy with this accomplishment,” Mahmoud Yazji, who owns Yazji Group, said in a press statement that day. “It is a historical moment crowning years of continuous work, despite impediments.

Yazji Group was established in 1961 in the Gaza Strip.

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