Daily Israel Report

Iceland’s Volcano Wilts 40 Million Israeli Flowers

Volcanic ash from Iceland earlier this month caused millions of dollars in damage to Israel’s growing flower industry. Farmers want compensation.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 4/28/2010, 5:29 PM / Last Update: 4/28/2010, 8:27 PM

The volcanic ash from the volcano in Iceland earlier this month caused $5.3 million (20 million shekels) in damage to Israeli flower growers because of the European airport shutdown, industry officials said.

The Israel Flower Growers Association is demanding compensation under the law covering farmers harmed by natural disasters. Most of the 40 million flowers that could not be shipped were tossed out, according to association official Chaim Hadad.

A small number of flowers were sold at local prices, far less than what is received for export. Israelis traditionally buy flowers for the weekly Sabbath table and those who knew flower growers or whose gardeners and florists knew them were able to bring unusual bouquets home for their families at little or no cost.

Efforts to ship the flowers through Greece and other routes failed, and the growers missed out on an opportunity to profit from extraordinarily high prices because of the shortage in Europe.

Flower growers in other countries also threw away millions of flowers. The shortage was particularly felt in the United States where the most popular flowers towards the beginning of the wedding season are wedding bouquets imported from Holland. Virtually all roses in the United States and 80 percent of American’s purchases of cut flowers are imported.

In Africa, Kenya growers threw away 20 million roses that were meant for the European market, and its local industry estimates a loss of approximately $15 million due to the volcano.