BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian food production is hampered by limited access to abundant natural water resources, the water authority said Tuesday.

In a report to mark World Water Day, observed Wednesday, the Palestinian Water Authority and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics warned that water shortages lowered food production.

“Israeli actions of ongoing siege and closure of Palestinian cities, burning or confiscation of lands, stealing of agricultural crops, expansion of settlements and expulsion of farmers from their own lands, plus stealing the water to re-sell it back at high prices that farmers cannot afford to use for agriculture, have resulted in lowered food production.”

Meanwhile, demand for food is rising due to the growing population, leading to higher prices. Food takes up 36.4 percent of the average household’s total expenses, the report said.

The population in Gaza is expected to reach 1.9 million by 2016, and the report warned that the amount of fresh water allocated for agriculture will be reduced to meet growing municipal needs.

PWA and PCBS said farmers should be encouraged to cultivate crop varieties with high productivity that consume less water.

They also recommended enhancing land reclamation, developing rain-water harvesting and using treated waste water to irrigate dry fodder crops.