World Economy

Lack of Funds Stop Gaza Flower Exports

Lack of Funds Stop Gaza Flower ExportsLack of Funds Stop Gaza Flower Exports

Growing and exporting flowers used to be a blooming business in Gaza. But not anymore.

The industry has long been withering since Israel tightened its blockade in 2007 after Hamas took control of Gaza, Al Arabiya news reported. But this year flower exports are on the brink of collapse, Gaza’s agriculture ministry says.

“Before 2007, 50 million flowers used to be sold for seven or eight million dollars. Last season, 2.5 million flowers were sold for $0.5 million only. This year, exports are zero. This is affecting the Palestinian farmers and the Palestinian economy,” said Tahsin al-Sakka, the general director of marketing and crossings in the Gaza ministry of agriculture.

“The Dutch government had been supporting Gaza’s flower exports since 2010, but Sakka said this year the funding has been stopped, as the sector has not developed.

“The industry of planting and exporting flowers are not useful anymore for the Palestinian farmers, because planting a dunum (0.247 acres) of flowers costs around $10,000.

In the past, the Dutch government used to fund around 60% of the cost for each dunum, which is around $5,000, as a support for the farmers. Last year, the donations were $700 only for each farmer regardless of the amount of dunums that he is planting,” Sakka said.

Palestinian farmers, with the help of foreign donations mostly from the Netherlands, have been producing and exporting fresh herbs and other plants.

The European Union spends millions to support the private sector in Gaza via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and the Palestinian Authority. But ultimately, the EU says, Gaza must export in order to achieve greater economic independence.

  Fortunes Decline

Flower growers say they have seen their fortunes decline in the face of the blockade.

“Gaza used to plant 1,200-1,300 dunums (296.5 acres) of flowers. Year after year, (planting) decreased until last year, it came down to 300 dunum (74 acres). This year, it was nothing. Some are planting one dunum only. But this present season, the flower industry has disappeared from Gaza Strip,” said flower grower Ziyad Hijazi.

Farmer Jameel Hijazi said his debts have accumulated, and he now faces the prospect of being jailed.

“My loss is over $60,000 – the amount left to pay. My land has gone, all my property has gone. I sold everything. I was forced to sell everything. Today I received a court order, an imprisonment order. My house will be confiscated,” he said.

Gaza’s problems are not limited to restrictions on import and export. Power shortage forces residents to live with up to eight hours of blackout a day and industries have to spend exuberant amounts every month on fuel for generators.

Unemployment reached 38.5 percent at the end of last year (2014).