YERUSHALAYIM - After government intervention in recent weeks to reduce the cost of water and public transportation, fruits and vegetables could be next. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel has long been frustrated at the pricing structure in Israel’s produce markets – with distributors paying next to nothing for produce, but customers paying high prices – and on Wednesday he said in a meeting of the Knesset Economic Committee that he was considering legislation to regulate prices.
Channel Ten quoted Ariel as telling the committee that “the fees charged by distributors and brokers are unreasonable. The reality is that a tomato grower is likely to get less from a wholesaler than what it cost him to grow a tomato, due to the oversupply, but that same tomato will increase in price by ten times when someone buys it in the supermarket. This is unacceptable,” said Ariel.
In the absence of voluntary cooperation by big players in the industry, Ariel said he has been considering legislation on the matter for some time, “but we have not had an opportunity to cooperate with the Finance, Economy, and Justice Ministries,” all of which would have input in shaping the legislation. “Therefore we are considering imposing price controls ourselves,” said Ariel.
The price controls would apply only to basic vegetables and fruits, “not pineapples, but yes onions and peppers. This would ensure a reasonably priced supply of basic produce for households,” Ariel said.
Already under some form of price controls are bread and some dairy products. Just this week, Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon and Interior Minister Rabbi Aryeh Deri implemented a 17 percent cut in the cost of public transportation, in a bid to make travel to and from work and school more affordable for economically weak families. Already approved and set to be implemented next Monday, Feb. 1, is a 17 percent cut in the cost of water for economically distressed families.