Farmers Decry Free Import of Turkish Tomatoes

YERUSHALAYIM -
Tomatoes for sale at a market in Tel Aviv. (Flash90)

Israeli farmers were up in arms over the decision by Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon not to intervene to reimpose duty on imported tomatoes, resulting in a flood of tomatoes on the market – imported from Turkey. Farmers called the failure to reimpose the duty “a free gift to Turkish President Erdogan, in honor of our chagim.”

The duty on imported tomatoes is removed automatically before the Yom Tov season, the result of a decision made several years ago, and the closest and cheapest source of available tomatoes is in Turkey. As a result, several Israeli importers have increased their shipments of Turkish tomatoes – to the chagrin of Israeli farmers, who now face increased pressure to reduce their costs.

Currently, said farmers, there is no shortage of tomatoes in Israel, so there is no need to import foreign-grown tomatoes. “For the past weeks the price of tomatoes has been stable, at between NIS 4 and 5 a kilo,” said Meir Yifrach, chairman of the Israel Vegetable Growers Association. “Farmers are able to fulfill all the needs of the market and the consumers. There is no shortage, and no need to assist the market with imports. Nevertheless, there is now an unlimited import of tomatoes from Turkey now flooding the market, with the capability of causing devastating losses for Israeli farmers.”

Most Israeli tomatoes are grown in the Negev, and especially in the Gaza border area – exacerbating the situation, said Yifrach. “The farmers there have been working under fire for many months, facing difficult situations and constant threats. Now they face another threat, from imported tomatoes that will drive down prices.” In addition, the fact that the tomatoes are being brought in from Turkey is problematic, given the icy relationship between Israel and Turkey. “These are ‘tomatoes of hate’ from the land of the tyrant Erdogan, who supports and