Wholesale cucumber prices soared from about NIS 3 to NIS 9 per kilogram on Tuesday, a jump that some experts blamed on weather changes and holiday farm closures, and others attributed to lack of manpower in general.

“The prices of cucumbers are presenting the real market,” Avraham Erlich, manager of the vegetable department at the Plants Production and Marketing Board told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. “The demand is very stable, but the supply changes all the time. This is why the prices change every day.”

David Magal, of the marketing department at Hishtil Nurseries, maintained that the sudden sharp price rise was due to a number of factors: “the mix of weather, the critical lack of workers and seasonality.”

“All three contribute, but the situation of the lack of workers and the ability to plant during this time hurts the period further,” Magal said.

Like Magal, Meir Ifrah, CEO of the Israeli Vegetable Growers Association, blamed the situation largely on the decreasing number of workers available to Israeli farmers.

“The main reason for the rise in prices is not the weather this time, but mainly the reduction in manpower for agriculture in recent times,” Ifrah said. Farm owners have access to about 2,500 fewer agricultural workers today than are permitted by the allotted national quota, due to the fact that the government demands complicated bureaucratic processes for bringing in Thai workers, according to Ifrah.

“As a result of this, farmers are reducing help, and the result is a rise in prices,” he said.

At Hishtil Nurseries, Magal said that researchers have developed cucumbers that are resistant to cold and to many diseases, “but if the growers don’t have enough workers, and can’t prepare their fields, they can’t be planting them.”

Government policies about foreign agricultural workers are counterintuitive and are directly correlated with the prices of cucumbers and all other vegetables, such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers, Magal added.

“Cucumbers at the moment are extreme,” he said.

While Erlich agreed that farmers have been dealing with a decrease in available labor for years due to government policies, he did not feel that the current cucumber price rise was anything too worrisome and could have occurred for one of many reasons.

“When people want to make salad every day, they must have cucumbers, so the demand is very strong,” Erlich said. “Nobody wants to give up giving cucumbers – it’s one of the major vegetables in our diet. This is why we’re so worried about the prices.”

The price rise could have occurred because of colder weather, or because groves are concentrated in one small area, or because of the holiday break, he explained.

“You must pick cucumbers every day at the right time and you can’t wait,” Erlich said. “If there is a holiday and you can’t sell them, you throw them away.”

Erlich stressed that the cucumber situation would likely resolve itself shortly and that people should not be overly alarmed about the prices. The cucumber shortage would also not be indicative of problems with other vegetables, he said.

“The bottom line is that there is a little bit of shortage in the cucumber market now, and within a few days it will be a normal market and the price will go down and we don’t have to worry,” Erlich added.

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