Fish growers are planning a major demonstration for Tuesday, as they protest the government’s plan to allow fish imports without any custom tax payments, without any further compensation to Israeli growers from the government. Globes quoted a government official as saying that the fish growers received a hefty payment on Pesach for allowing the importation of tax-free fish, but that there would be “no welfare network other than a standard thin one,” the report quoted the official as saying.
Finance Minister Moshe Kachlon is keen on implementing the program, which he believes will help cut food costs and lead to a fall in the cost of living. The tax-free rules will apply to the most popular variations of fish in Israeli markets, including flounder, tilapia, carp and others. Fish for which buyers are currently charged a duty of NIS 5 per kilo will see the duty eliminated immediately, while others will have their customs halved, to disappear altogether within the year.
Fish growers plan to take to the streets to protest the changes, which they say will wipe them out financially, as they will be unable to compete with cheap imports from Mediterranean countries, and especially from China. However, the Treasury is unlikely to be moved, Globes said; currently, 90 percent of the fish sold in Israel is imported, and of the 30 fish growers in Israel, 12 are responsible for 80 percent of the remainder.
The first round of tax-free fish entered the country before Pesach. To compensate local growers, the government provided a fund of NIS 37 million, with the top Israeli producers receiving NIS 2.5 million each, even though, as sales figures eventually bore out, they did not lose out on sales.