Israeli consumers should be encouraged to buy homegrown produce

It is hard to comprehend just how bad the situation facing Israeli agricultural goods is at present and how far we have deviated from the accepted path of many Western countries.

CLEMENTINE TREES at a field in Moshav Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley. It is hard to comprehend just how bad the situation facing Israeli agricultural goods is at present and how far we have deviated from the accepted path of many Western countries.  (photo credit: ANAT HERMONY/FLASH90)
CLEMENTINE TREES at a field in Moshav Nahalal in the Jezreel Valley. It is hard to comprehend just how bad the situation facing Israeli agricultural goods is at present and how far we have deviated from the accepted path of many Western countries.
(photo credit: ANAT HERMONY/FLASH90)
Israel is at a historic crossroads, faced with significant questions regarding its future following the COVID-19 pandemic. In many industries, there is uncertainty about what is needed to get back on track. And at a time when the Israeli coalition government remains fragile, budgets are being cut, and many businesses could declare bankruptcy, there is one area – food – that is in the greatest danger.
It is hard to comprehend just how bad the situation facing Israeli agricultural goods is at present and how far we have deviated from the accepted path of many Western countries. There is little transparency from the government and most citizens have no idea what is happening. The large food chains – not the individual – decide what we, the public, will buy for the simple reason that we as consumers cannot distinguish between an imported or an Israeli tomato.
The issue is not about eliminating local competition or preventing imports, but an ongoing system which prevents the Israeli consumer from giving preference to Israeli agricultural goods over produce from other countries.
It is only natural – and logical – that right now, Israelis choose to support and strengthen local production over agricultural produce from overseas, even if the cost is higher.
The largest survey ever conducted by HaShomer HaChadash yielded results that decision-makers in Israel must consider: With more than 1,400 survey participants, more than 80% said they prefer to buy Israeli products when there is no difference in the quality of the crops. Only 8% of the respondents claimed that they were able to distinguish between Israeli and imported products.
Consumers must be allowed to make their own choices, including the choice between a value-based purchase and one that is purely based on cost. This approach has long been applied in Canada and many European countries by placing a simple mark on local produce, enabling the consumer to make their own choice, including one based on patriotism and a desire to strengthen the local economy.
A free market economy can continue while still implementing measures that help improve our perception of products that have been grown, developed and manufactured – with great effort – in the State of Israel. It is common knowledge that in recent months, IDF soldiers were fed imported cucumbers while tons of cucumbers grown on Moshav Ahituv were destroyed.
Just recently, it was reported that the pear crop is expected to reach 35,000 tons this year. Despite this great news, current imports of pears may severely hurt Israeli farmers, not only because of the expected glut of Israeli pears but primarily because Israeli farmers are not permitted to set the price for their produce and the public cannot choose from whom to buy the produce.
Despite the economic situation, the survey results are astonishing: more than 60% of the country’s citizens are willing to pay a significant percentage more for Israeli products out of a willingness and desire to strengthen the local economy and protect our farmers. What’s more, 67% of Israelis believe that fruits and vegetables grown in Israel are of the same quality – or even higher – than those imported. And a vast majority – 76% – said they would like to know the country of origin of the produce they buy.
So, when our leaders are asked what should be done to strengthen the economy, the answer is simple. All Israeli produce sold in Israel, in every supermarket and in every vegetable stall, must be marked blue and white. Encourage Israeli consumers to eat produce grown in our own land. This will make our farmers stronger and enable the expansion of Israeli agricultural development and innovation circles that have already changed the lives of farmers and consumers around the world.
Israeli farmers have a great responsibility to cultivate the land and produce food and green spaces for us.
We have the responsibility to protect them.
The writer is the founder and CEO of HaShomer HaChadash, which works to secure the connection between the Jewish people to the Land of Israel through education and activism.