Thirty million flowers that were supposed to reach the European market in time
for Christmas remained in Israel due to a shortage of workers to harvest the
plants, Israel’s Flower Growers Association announced on Wednesday.
failure to transfer all the expected flower supplies to Europe is causing Israel
to continue to lose its place in the European market – a sector that the country
once dominated, the association lamented.
While Kenya and Ethiopia have
been occupying chunks of the market for some time now, a brand new competitor
entered this holiday season: Costa Rica. The Central American nation, which
formerly limited its flower sales largely to US markets, was able to provide the
European sector with green ornamental branches for Christmas that were once
considered an Israeli specialty, the association said.
are now unable to maintain their traditional markets when the government “binds
their hands behind their backs and devotedly maintains a chronic shortage of
workers,” according to Haim Hadad, secretary-general of Israel’s Flower Growers
While Israel’s farmers have been promised by the government
to have 25,000 foreign workers available, the association claims that in reality
there only about 20,000. The result, the association said, is that while
competitors enjoy an endless supply of low-cost workers, the Israeli flower
growers must operate without a crucial portion of their work force and with
unnecessary and inflated tax payments on those who do work.
the government made an additional decision to maintain that 25,000- worker
figure for the year 2013, allowing for 24,000 long-term foreign workers, 1,000
seasonal staff and 2,000 work permits for Palestinians.
The 2012 figures
were 25,400 until the month of September, and then were reduced to 24,400 for
the remainder of the year, according to the Agriculture
Delineating the number of workers permitted is the role of the
government at large, and the Agriculture Ministry does not have the authority to
allocate how many workers are allowed to come in or be employed, a ministry
spokeswoman told The Jerusalem Post.
“It is absurd that during a period
in which we hear about a drop in state revenues and a tremendous deficit that
will cause cuts to the public,” Hadad said, “the prime minister, ministers and
officials deliberately harm manufacturers and exporters who request nothing but
the workers that are authorized to them, in order to increase state
The labor shortage hits particularly hard during peak periods
when the need for flowers is high, the organization stressed. With the end of
Christmas, the Flower Growers Association found that 15 percent of the Israeli
flowers slated to go to Europe (30 million out of 200 million) remained in the
country because there were not enough workers to pick and pack them. Now, the
farmers will have to send the flowers during a period of much slower demand,
receiving lower prices for the plants, according to Hadad.
understand customers in Europe that are discouraged by us and prefer to turn to
other countries from which they have a guaranteed, reliable delivery, even
though they are farther than us from the market,” Hadad added.
damage already done will be very hard to repair in the future because all the
shelf space has been taken from us and will not be returned easily, and may be