Giving Jews plenty of time to prepare for the Sukkot holiday, three and a half months away, Egypt has announced that it will not export lulavs this year.
Egyptian Agriculture Minister says he will ban the export of lulavs – palm tree fronds – this year, leaving Jewish communities around the world and particularly in Israel without its major source of lulavim for the Sukkot holiday.
The news should make Israeli growers happy, however. Kibbutz Tirat Tzvi, for example, in the northern Jordan Valley, sold close to 80,000 high-quality lulavim last year – and says it could easily have sold another 30,000 had it not been for Egypt’s flooding of the market.
Even if Tirat Tzvi sells 110,000 this year, however, it will not be enough. It is estimated that Israelis buy over 500,000 lulavim each year – and close to 400,000 of them come from Egypt.
Moshe Zakkai of Tirat Tzvi told Israel National News that there is nothing to worry about. “We can, if given enough advance notice, harvest some 150,000 lulavim," he said, "and the other kibbutzim in the area can supply another 300,000. That should not be a problem. We just have to know in advance whether Egypt is serious, or if this is just a ploy to raise prices.” He said that his kibbutz has roughly 12,000 trees, but the amount of lulavim harvested from each tree ranges in number from four to 15 a year, depending on various factors.
“Our lulavim are slightly more expensive than others,” Zakkai said, “because they are of the high-quality Deri species. They are nicely closed at the top [as Jewish Law requires], and are stronger than other lulavim.” He noted that it used to be that "one would buy a fancy etrog [citron] and get a lulav almost as a throw-in. Now, however, the price of a lulav has increased and is almost equal that of the etrog."
Egypt’s Agriculture Minister Amin Abdeh claims that the reason for stopping the lulav exports is to protect his country’s 12 million palm trees, 500,000 of which are in northern Sinai. He said that people anxious to make money on the Jews’ Sukkot practices cut the lulavim in an unsupervised manner, thus causing irreparable harm to the trees.
Egypt also exports 500,000 lulavim to the United States and some 370,000 to France, as well as to England, Belgium, Canada, Latin America and elsewhere.
Last year, in addition to Egypt and the Jordan Valley, Israelis used lulavim from Jordan, Jericho and even Gaza.