Wholesalers Claim Pricing Conspiracy

YERUSHALAYIM -
Buying tomatoes at the Mahaneh Yehudah market in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Buying tomatoes at the Mahaneh Yehudah market in Yerushalayim. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Fruit and vegetable wholesalers are accusing the Ministry of Agriculture of setting inflated prices for tomatoes and cucumbers to favor growers, Globes reported.

The ministry denies the charge, but the wholesalers insist that there could be no other explanation for the wide disparity between cucumber and tomato wholesale prices published by the ministry’s Plants Production and Marketing Board and the independent board Yerkom. This, they say, accounts for the current high retail price of the vegetables.

Wholesalers claimed that the Marketing Board was inflating prices by completely unjustifiable margins. Last week, the government’s price for tomatoes was NIS 7.50 per kilogram, compared with NIS 4.60 per kilogram set by Yerkom — a difference of 39 percent. At the same time, the Marketing Board set a price of NIS 3.50 per kilogram for cucumbers, compared with a price of NIS 2.60 per kilogram set by Yerkom — a 26 percent difference.

Yerkom CEO Amnon Kedem described the impact on the market. “The inventory of tomatoes at each market trader at the end of the trading day on Tuesday was 165 pallets of tomatoes, or 100 tons. Such a supply of tomatoes at the end of the trading day renders a price of NIS 7.50 per kilogram impossible.”

Plants Production and Marketing Board secretary Meir Yifrach rejected the accusation. “The Marketing Board has no interest in artificially inflating prices or lowering prices, and its reviewer does his work professionally, on the basis of real data. The retail chains are responsible for the situation, because they intervene in wholesale prices to avoid paying the real price to farmers. The Marketing Board does not manipulate; ultimately it is a matter of supply and demand.”