Israeli farmers are up in arms over a report that the IDF has been buying tomatoes from a supplier – who largely relies on tomatoes grown in Turkey.
The report in Yediot Acharonot elicited anger from farmers who say that the insult is twofold – with an important Israeli institution ignoring Israeli produce, and the fact that Israeli soldiers are being fed tomatoes being grown in a country that is just a step away from being an enemy state.
Turkish tomatoes have been appearing more often in Israeli markets in recent months, with importers relying on them to keep prices low. The Turkish lira has been very weak in recent months, making imports from that country very cheap compared to Israeli products and produce. In addition, tomatoes are among the products that have seen import duties slashed, again, to keep prices down for the consumer.
What’s good for the consumer is, in this case, devastating to the farmer, said Zvi Alon, chairman of the Israel Growers Association. “In the past we warned the agriculture minister and other officials that the situation will drive farmers out of business, and unfortunately we were right.
“Imports have caused a major decrease in prices farmers can get for their produce, and in addition our costs have risen. As a result, many farmers have just given up. There are many fields in the Negev that are not being harvested because it is just not worth it for farmers,” Alon said.
In a statement, the IDF said that the army’s policy “is to prefer local products. With that, in cases where there is more demand than supply, the company we have contracted with has the option to import produce.” The report noted that while the army’s contract with its supplier says that Israeli-grown products should be supplied when available, the contract does not prevent such imports.