Nearly 1,000 farmers and fish growers protested Tuesday afternoon in 100 degree heat against the government’s plans to open the fish market to duty-free imports. Joining the protesters was former IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, who said that he was “an old time moshav person who clearly understands the differences and similarities between security and agriculture.”
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 varieties of fish in Israeli markers, including flounder, tilapia, carp and others. Fish that are currently charged a duty of NIS 5 per kilo will see the duty eliminated immediately, while others will have their customs halved now and completely annulled within the year. Statistics show that 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 remaining market share.
At the rally, protesters held signs against the impending government policy, legislation they maintain will destroy the Israeli fish industry. Giora Saltz, head of the Upper Galilee Regional Council, said he could not understand “how the most nationalistic government in Israel’s history is undertaking such an anti-Zionist action, preferring foreign produce over Israeli agriculture, the produce we bring to tables by the sweat of our brows. People from around the world come to Israel to learn how to farm, and we are ruining this.”
The rally was also addressed by MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), who said that the effort against the removal of duties on fish was “a struggle for the preservation of Israeli agriculture. This is a debate over a worldview – if we just look at profit and loss statements, or if we see Israeli agriculture as rooted in the land, the ground, the water. We are shocked that the government plans to sell Israeli agriculture to foreigners, but we will not agree to this. Together we will win this battle.”