Gaza’s flower industry wilts under COVID-19 and Israeli blockade

Gaza (QNN)- The farmer Maher Abu Daqqah sits, watching in frustration his wilted colorful flowers turning into fodder after he had waited for six months to pick them in eastern Khan Yunis in southern Gaza.

Abu Daqqah has 6 dunums of agricultural land, where he grows different types of flowers to sell them in the local market. This year, however, the production has completely declined and the farmers have been incurring heavy losses due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Abu Daqqah said that he started growing flowers in September 2019, hoping that he would start getting the profits of his harvest in the spring and summer when the demand for flowers increase. However, Abu Daqqah’s efforts gone to waste and he had to sell his flowers as fodder.

As of March 20, Abu Daqqah has been damaging nearly 5000 flowers on a daily basis with losses estimated at $50,000. He also had to lay off ten workers, who have lost their primary source of income.

“What happened to us due to the coronavirus is a great misfortune”, he said. “Not mentioning that we still need up to 500 NIS every day to pay for fertilizers, the power, water and to pay for the labour force.”

Since the start of the Israeli blockade, the agricultural sector in the Gaza strip has been suffering from severe restrictions due to the closure of the border-c crossings. In 2012, the occupation state started an exportation ban, preventing flower farmers from exporting their products to the Netherlands.

Farmers in the eastern part of the enclave have been facing countless violations by the Israeli army, including land leveling and the intentional damaging of the flower crops. When the coronavirus crisis took place, it completely damaged the flower industry, which was partially damaged by the Israeli violations.

COVID-19 and occupation damaged Gaza’s flower industry

Suheir Hijazi, another farmer, whose flowers were damaged in the coronavirus crisis, causing him severe losses and leaving him alone facing his numerous commitments.

Hijazi told QNN that “since the announcement of the emergency state in March, he damaged 70,000 lawanda flowers that cost 35,000 NIS”. He also damaged 30,000 roses that cost 55,000 NIS.

He added that the flower industry has been already suffering from the difficult harsh condition in the enclave due to the Israeli blockade and violations.

The Israeli army has leveled his land in 2013 but he grew it again and did his best to produce 800 flowers on a daily basis but the coronavirus crisis came to damage everything.

Adham Basioni, the spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, told QNN that the flower land in Gaza shrank to 11 dunums that produce nearly 20,000 flowers. Recently, the Israeli pumping of wastewater to agricultural land in eastern Gaza damaged many flower plants.”

“The exportation had stopped because of the blockade then the coronavirus worsened the situation and caused losses estimated at nearly one million dollars in their sector”, he added.

Basioni noted that the government in Gaza allocated funds to back the farmers and compensate them for their losses.

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