Rotting fruit in North costs growers, consumers

Produce industry loses NIS 60 million since start of conflict.

rotting fruit 298 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
rotting fruit 298 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Katyusha rocket barrages and the absence of workers in the fields are causing immense agricultural damage in the North as fruits rot on trees while consumers across the country face increasing prospects of higher prices. According to the latest estimates provided by the Fruit Growers Association, the fruit growing industry in the North has suffered at least NIS 60 million in damages since the beginning of the conflict because of the halt to picking of summer fruits. "The fruit sector in the North is on the brink of a catastrophe," said Yaron Belachsan, secretary of Moshav Ramot Nafatali in the Upper Galiliee. "Every day that goes by balloons the damages by millions of additional shekels." The Association said it was impossible to pluck pears, plums and the rest of the summer fruits since all of the workers have gone so the fruit was rotting on the trees before falling. "Fruit growers had high hopes for this summer to pay back their debts accumulated from two seasons of bottom prices because of surplus," said Belachsan. "They have already paid up for workers and water and now they cannot pick the fruits." The damage caused to fruit marketing and sales was expected to continue into the winter. "The picking of pears needs to take place over the next 10 days, so they can retain a good quality and be stored in a cool place until the winter," the Association explained. "If the picking is delayed, there will be a scarcity of pears in the autumn and winter and the price of the fruit will increase by hundreds of percents." From the start of the escalation, the majority of agricultural businesses have been closed. "About 90 percent of agricultural production in the Galilee has come to a halt since the beginning of escalations. The extent of the damage to the industry will go far beyond initial estimates," Itzik Cohen of the Poultry Breeders Organization told The Jerusalem Post. "Animals such as cows and hens laying eggs have been scared of the rockets. They are eating less, losing weight and producing less." As a result, Cohen said, the rate of chickens laying eggs had dropped from 80% to 50%, while milk reservoirs were down as was the availability of chicken and poultry since slaughter houses were shut. "As a result of the hysteria of chickens due to rockets hitting the North, they have been laying eggs that break easily, while also producing less, a situation, which could lead to scarcity and an increase in egg prices," Muli Levit of the Egg and Poultry Board told the Post.