POLICY GUIDELINES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FLOWER INDUSTRY IN ISRAEL.

Mr. M. Ben-Meir
Israel is a very small country - with only 4,000 sq. km of arable land. Moreover, 50% of Israel's land area is desert, and a small country like ours cannot afford such a large waste of area. We have been trying to make the desert bloom for over 100 years. For us, developing agricultural settlements in the desert has not only been an economic target. Still, economic tools have to be used to achieve this goal. To our regret, industry has not been capable of achieving the national goal of population dispersion, away from the main urban areas. Thus, agriculture has served as the vehicle for carrying out this policy.

Having said that more than 50% of our land area is desert, it is obvious that another major problem Israel faces is the scarcity of water. By the end of this century, the quantities of water available to agriculture will have to be reduced by 40%. We therefore face the challenge of developing agriculture in spite of water scarcity. Besides, water scarcity has been and will be a major issue influencing relations amongst the countries in our region. In our turbulent area, water has more than once been a casus belli. I am not exaggerating when I say that he who wants to contribute to peace in our region, should concentrate on solving the water problems. In other words, new technologies must be developed for efficient water use, so as to get maximum return from every cubic meter.

In the beginning, we were naive. We thought that having supplied the demands of our domestic markets for agricultural products, export would be an outlet for surplus. However, we soon realized that export cannot be based on surplus. Quality, continuity and reliability are conditional for agricultural export, and those factors are not compatible with surplus. So we began to reevaluate our policy and to plan our strategy accordingly.

Reverting to water scarcity as one of the crucial factors in the region, and a limiting factor in the desert, let me broaden the subject. Not only do semi-arid areas suffer from scarcity of water, but the drilling of wells or the transport of water to these areas is also a very expensive process. The challenge to our scientists lies not only in devising sophisticated methods for water conservation but also in achieving economical and efficient water use.

The price of water, as high as it may be, must become a minor factor in the economic calculations of agricultural production. To put this ambitious goal into simple terms: Research and Development must provide solutions by breeding drought and salinity resistant, high-value crops and by introducing a wide range of new, scientifically-adapted agricultural products for export.

When agricultural export was designated a major tool for population dispersion and settlement in the arid areas of our country, flowers were one of our first choices. In initiating the export of flowers, we again misjudged the dimensions of the task undertaken. First, we grew flowers and other crops in open fields, believing that climatic and

Ben-Meir, Mr. M. (1989). POLICY GUIDELINES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE FLOWER INDUSTRY IN ISRAEL.. Acta Hortic. 261, 15-16
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.1989.261.1
https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.1989.261.1

Acta Horticulturae