Gov't takes steps to save northern harvest [pg. 17]

Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon instructed his ministry carry out several steps to help "save what can be [saved] of the agricultural season," the ministry said Monday. The ministry would immediately begin working to locate foreign workers that went to the Center and South of the country to escape the rockets, who would be reinforced by teams of volunteers. Once Homefront Command instructions allow, the workers would work to harvest the fruits that are still salvageable, including apples, nectarines and plums. The avocado and mango seasons are also beginning and will require the extra labor, as well, the ministry noted, adding that the 35,000 dunams in the North dedicated to avocado farming are designated primarily for export. The ministry's office in the Northern District also will receive added manpower to handle applications for compensation from the Israel Tax Authority on indirect damages caused to farmers by the fighting. Farmers from 250 different communities in the North are expected to submit roughly 3,000 claims for compensation, totalling NIS 250 million, the ministry said. Separately, the Galil Mountain Winery said Monday it has begun the year's grape harvest "despite the combat situation," and expected it to continue until early October. This year's vintage is expected to bring in 1,000 tons of grapes, 30 percent more than last year, the winery said, adding that it plans to expand production to 1,500 tons over the next five years. The winery's vineyards cover 800 dunams adjacent the Lebanese border, belonging to the communities of Kibbutz Yiron, Malkhiya, Yiftah, Misgav-Am and Meiron. All necessary activities in preparation of the vintage have begun both at the winery and in the vineyard, alongside the daily state of alert and in accordance with changes in the situation, the winery said.