TEL AVIV – Although Valentine’s Day is not an official holiday in Israel, local farmers had reason to celebrate. Agrexco, exporters of agricultural products, reported soaring European demand for Israeli flowers and strawberries ahead of the holiday. Over 100,000 specially packaged heart-shaped boxes of strawberries were sold in the U.K. at major chains such as Marks and Spencer’s for prices that were 30% higher this year than last. Agrexco officials explained the increase in price was due to harsh weather conditions in Morocco and Spain, causing a shortage of the fruit in European markets. Israeli farmers were able to pick up the slack. Assaf Hadar, Agrexco director of strawberry exports, noted that another reason for the increase in demand is the better tasting berries that Israel is now growing.
Amos Or, Agrexco director in the U.K., noted that Israeli fruit and flowers are also popular in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia and even the Far East, which are fairly new markets. Calls for a European boycott of Israeli goods by anti-Israel groups have little impact on sales,” said Or. “I’ve been here in the U.K. for four years and from time to time these pro-Palestinian groups will try and get people to stop buying Israeli products but it hasn’t hurt us so far.” Or said that the exports of fruit and flowers ahead of the Valentine’s holiday this year was expected to bring in at least a half a million Euros in sales.