(photo credit: REUTERS)
Shortages have led to a sharp spike in prices for tomatoes and poultry, with wholesale tomato costs more than tripling in two months.
According to Globes, wholesale tomato prices reached some NIS 12 per kilogram on Wednesday, up from around NIS 9/kg last week and just over NIS 3.5/ kg two months before.
“The consecutive nature of the holidays and the proximity of the Jewish and Muslim festivals have together increased the demand and the needs of the Israeli consumer,” a statement from the Agriculture Ministry said.
In addition to the market congestion triggered by all the holidays, the prolonged heat wave that plagued Israel during the summer months, as well as a virus that attacked produce in many areas of the South, led to a significant reduction in the availability of vegetables, the ministry statement explained.
The poultry sector has also faced shortages due to the decreased number of work days kosher slaughterhouses are able to operate during the holiday season.
To bridge gaps in the produce sector, the Agriculture Ministry and the Finance Ministry have agreed to enable the duty-free import of tomatoes for a limited time period of a few weeks – both to continue to prioritize local production and to minimize risk to importers, the Agriculture Ministry said. Their statement credited the country’s port managers for working strenuously to ensure the swift release of the imported produce.
The Finance Ministry, however, noted that it takes 8-14 days to import tomatoes, so increased import licenses to help deal with the shortages could take time to have an effect.
Three weeks ago, Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel first announced that he would be temporarily removing customs restrictions on both tomatoes and cucumbers ahead of the holidays, in order to compensate for supply shortages that had led to a rise in prices.
Despite the ongoing tomato issues, the Agriculture Ministry said that at this point, the shortage of cucumbers has ended and that the green vegetable has returned to its wholesale price of NIS 3.5 per kg.
As far as the poultry sector is concerned, the ministry stressed that due to the sequential occurrence of Jewish High Holy Days, Shabbats and the Muslim Eid al-Adha festival, no slaughter occurred from the night before Yom Kippur until Tuesday.
Although the Chief Rabbinate had planned to mandate half-work days for slaughterhouses during Hol Hamoed, the intermediate days of Sukkot, the Rabbinate’s kashrut department eventually agreed to full work days following appeals from Ariel, the ministry statement said. By this Shabbat and Simhat Torah, the faltering poultry supplies will be replenished, the ministry added.
Opposition leader MK Isaac Herzog told Army Radio that the high prices were cause for government resignations.
“Some governments resign over food shortages. There is no way a civilized country should have a shortage in basic foodstuffs,” he said.