(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
What could a country like Israel do with NIS 200 million? It could nearly fund an election (the government budgeted NIS 246 milliion this year), or it could buy an 850 square meter penthouse in a swanky Tel Aviv building currently under construction on Arlozoroff street, or it could buy enough dried fruit for the whole country to celebrate Tu Bishvat.
According to the agricultural branch of the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce, that's how much Israel will spend this year on dried fruit for the holiday of trees, 300% more than on an average month. In fact, in 2012, a third of all dried fruit was sold during the Tu Bishvat season. Some 75% of all Israeli households are expected to purchase dates, apricot, prunes, figs and raisins—the top-selling dry fruits—for the holiday, which marks the start of the biblical agricultural year and is celebrated with a feast of fruits.
"This year, 3-4% growth is expected in dry fruit in Israeli households," says Reuven Shlisil, who heads the FICC's agricultural branch.
But the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Labor worries that some people will be overpaying for the sweet stuff for something that clashes with Tu Bishvat's more recent environmental message: packaging.
Tamar Pinkus, who heads the Ministry's legal department, warns consumers: "Pay attention to what you're supposed to pay for your purchase, and verify that the weight of the product you're asking for is the net weight of the product. You're not required to pay for extras such as packaging without your knowledge," she scolds.
The ministry went so far as to put out guidance for Tu Bishvat shoppers on how to properly assess the price of their purchases, and the responsibilities businesses have to clearly indicate what's included in the price.
In fact, she says, a consumer protection law holds sellers who mislead customers about their prices by putting packaging on the scale alongside fruit (among other scams) are liable for a fine of NIS 204,400 per violation.
The ministry did not specify how much consumers overspend on Styrofoam trays or plastic bags. Some simple math, however, shows that just the money from 978 fines against businesses could pay for the whole country's Tu Bishvat fruit consumption.
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