The government appointed an inter-ministerial committee Monday to examine how to rescue Israel’s olive industry, which is struggling under the weight of rising manufacturing costs and increased competition from Europe.

Agriculture Ministry Director-General Yossi Yishai and his team were asked to submit a five-year plan within 30 days, with suggestions on how to protect local olive manufacturers, update standards, implement effective supervision and raise public awareness of the health benefits of consuming olive oil.

Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and Agriculture Minister Orit Noked commissioned the report after meeting with olive industry representatives, including the head of the Plants Production & Marketing Board (PPMB).

The officials presented a gloomy picture, blaming rising global manufacturing costs, heavy subsidization of European competitors, and the flooding of the Israeli market with cheap, fake olive oil brands. They presented data showing that farmers have begun to uproot their olive trees, explaining that it is costlier to grow the trees than to remove them.

Israel is home to around 325,000 dunams (80,000 acres) of olive groves.

The Knesset Finance Committee discussed the issue last week, with MKs suggesting the government introduce subsidies to assist local olive oil manufacturers while simultaneously increasing import duties.

Israelis consumed 17,000 tons of olive oil last year, but 6,000 tons of the product were imported into the country, PPMB officials told the committee. They said most of these imports come from Spain, which manufactures 40% of the world’s olive oil, but warned that many of these products are of low quality, and contain carcinogenic ingredients and other unhealthy additives.

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