Monday, February 25, 2008
"When Hassan Sheikh Hijazi first opened his flower farm in 1991, it flourished. "We had a very good family business," he says. "We exported hundreds of thousands of flowers to Holland – and from there our flowers were sold across Europe. The traders knew our flowers were good quality - and Gaza was open for business."
With its mild coastal weather and well drained soil, the Gaza Strip is an ideal location for commercial flower farming. There are more than a hundred small flowers farms across the Gaza Strip, and they employ some 7,000 farm workers between them.
The majority of farms are located around Beit Lahia in northern Gaza; but Hassan Hijazi and his family live just outside Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, where they have a small flower farm of 24 donums (a donum is around 1,000 square metres). They grow carnations and chrysanthemums. After more then seventeen years as a commercial flower farmer, Hassan Hijazi is now head of the local Rafah Flower Farmers Union.
"Ten years ago farmers across Gaza were exporting 80 million flowers a year to Europe, including roses" he says. "But the last few years have been extremely difficult, and this one has been the worst yet. I exported exactly 20,000 flowers this year due to the closure. I have lost more than one million Shekels; but so has every flower farmer in Gaza. We are all just losing money now.".....
"Shame on Israel" says Mohammed Hijazi. "But shame on the Palestinian Authority, too. My father represents many local flowers farmers in southern Gaza, but no-one from the Ministry of Agriculture has even contacted us during this crisis. And shame on the European Union, because they have done nothing either. Why are they standing back in silence and allowing this to happen to us. Tell me – what is the security risk in exporting flowers?""