A peck of peppers.
(photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)
The Agriculture and Finance ministries – in conjunction with the Israel Farmer’s Federation – have launched a NIS 100 million program to incentivize Arava Desert- based farmers to diversify from growing peppers.
Under the program, farmers who agree to convert their pepper-growing areas to other crops are eligible to receive grants worth 70 percent of their initial investment, with a possibility of a 20% advance on this investment.
The aim of the plan is to diversify farming in the periphery and enable the continued growth of agricultural communities, the ministries said in a joint statement on Monday.
Peppers have become Israel’s most significant agricultural export in recent years – with most of the vegetable’s growth occurring in the Arava region – and they provide a major source of employment, the ministries said.
As a result of the economic difficulties facing Western Europe and Russia – the primary destinations for Israeli fresh produce exports – the Agriculture and Finance ministries are looking to use this program to help farmers overcome the export crisis.
With the grants, they will be able to continue to work in agricultural while spreading their risk more optimally in the future, the ministries explained.
The plan was formulated by Zvi Cohen, acting director- general of the Agriculture Ministry, and Udi Adiri, deputy budget director of the Finance Ministry.
In response to the decision, Israel Farmer’s Federation secretary-general Avshalom Vilan wrote to Cohen and Adiri that the federation “supports the budgetary agreement formulated by the Agriculture Ministry and Finance Ministry. The Israel Farmer’s Federation hopes that this process will bear fruit and will help farmers in need of aid,” he wrote.
The ministries said they are also currently working on devising a model for the provision of long-term loans guaranteed by the state for farmers who export their products. In addition, they intend to promote a new plan to encourage the collectivization of farmers exporting abroad, as well as to reinforce regional research and development toward developing alternatives to the pepper.
“The Agriculture and Finance ministries consider it important to preserve and strengthen agriculture,” their joint statement read. “The new program will bring to fruition the safeguarding of agricultural settlement in the periphery while establishing an economic and competitive agriculture industry.”