Drooping flower sales prompt farmers to sue state

Valentine’s Day export low due to shortage of Thai workers, flower-growers say.

The Israel Flower Growers Association on Wednesday reported a 30-percent drop in exports for Valentine’s Day compared to last year. The flower-growers blamed the drop on a shortage of Thai workers, which made it impossible for them to meet demands, and have threatened to sue the government for damages.
The association’s secretary-general, Haim Haddad, said the fall in exports was a heavy blow to growers who prepared for Valentine’s Day all year.
“Valentine’s Day is one of the annual peaks of the flowers industry, when large shipments are regularly sent from Israeli greenhouses to the flower shows and wholesalers in Europe,” said Haddad.
He said the government had left the growers without enough working hands. The government had signed an agreement that there would be 26,000 Thai workers available in the country, Haddad said, while in practice, there were fewer than 22,000.
“Every week, more workers whose permits have expired are leaving the country, but none are coming in their place. The shortage is becoming more extreme as time goes by,” said Haddad.
He called the government’s behavior “scandalous.”
“We are currently gathering figures on all the damages suffered by the various agricultural sectors as a result of the labor shortage and plan to file a massive lawsuit against the government so that the growers will be compensated for every last penny they lost,” said Haddad. “We will also consider filing personal lawsuits against the ministers and officials in charge of the contract breach.”
Earlier this year, the farmers, through the Israeli Farmers Federation, signed a deal with the government that they would agree to a gradual reduction of foreign workers over the next five years, and in exchange, the state would subsidize labor-reducing technologies to decrease the farmers’ dependency on foreign labor.
The farmers say the government reneged on the agreement when it stopped the entrance of Thai workers completely, leaving the farmers without labor.
In the past few months, the farmers have been holding public protests demanding the import of new workers. They reached a peak in December, when hundreds of farmers and their families amassed in the capital for a demonstration opposite the Knesset.