We have all been shocked and moved by the coverage from Ukraine over the past month or so and the suffering that the Ukrainian people have endured. Unfortunately, Israelis farmers are also feeling repercussions of the events unfolding in Ukraine specifically relating to the Israeli export industry and farming.
Indeed, Israeli farmers are having to dispose of thousands of tons of fresh vegetables as exports to Russia and Ukraine have totally stopped. It is estimated that over 50,000 tons of agricultural products – including basic vegetables such as celery, carrots, celery, potatoes, radishes - are going to be thrown out. Furthermore, the payments for produce have come to a total halt due to the drastic drop in the value of the ruble and the resulting sanctions imposed on Russia. The situation has resulted in a crisis for hundreds of Israeli farmers, with some having been forced to destroy entire crops after finding no alternative places to sell their produce.
Leket Israel, the National Food Bank and Israel’s largest food rescue organization, rescues agricultural produce from farmers and cooked food from hotels, corporate cafeterias, IDF army bases and more. Leket has now launched an urgent appeal to help rescue this produce as Israeli farm exports to Russia and Ukraine have stopped. Israeli agricultural trades to Russia amount to approximately NIS 700 million (USD $217 million) each year. Due to these sanctions, an estimated NIS 73 million (USD $23 million) in agricultural production and environmental resources will be lost. Unfortunately, the Israeli market cannot absorb the quantities grown for such large export markets. In addition, flooding the market with the vegetables in discussion would cause such a significant price drop, farmers would stop harvesting crops intended for the local market, leading to the needless, large-scale destruction of thousands of tons of export quality produce.
Joseph Gitler, Leket Israel Founder and Chairman, tells the Jerusalem Post, “Unfortunately, because of what is happening in Ukraine, Israeli farmers have been left with thousands of tons of produce that they would usually export. Thankfully Leket Israel will be working to rescue this excess produce and provide it to our non-profit partner agencies in time for the holiday. After the past two years when unfortunately, so many people continue to suffer financially from the pandemic, many experiencing food insecurity for the first time, it is devastating to see how much food continues to go to waste. Additionally, with the farmers unable to export what they have grown specifically for the Russian and Ukrainian markets, it is our obligation to try and rescue this produce before destruction and get it to those in need. There are so many people lacking food for the holiday, this is a win-win solution for everyone,” concludes Gitler.
In addition to the waste which will occur as a result of the export sanctions, it is expected that Israeli households will spend about NIS 2 billion (USD $621 million) on agricultural produce for the upcoming Passover holiday according to BDO. Of this, 65,000 tons valued at NIS 525 million (USD $163 million) will be thrown away. Overall, the average Israeli household will spend about NIS 2,640 (USD $829) on food in April with NIS 340 (USD $107) going to waste including NIS 83 (USD $26) worth of produce.
Gidi Kroch, CEO Leket Israel, tells the Jerusalem Post, “By only buying what we need we will ensure that no unnecessary food will be thrown out, saving both ourselves and the environment a lot of money and damage. Leket Israel's food rescue operation is both economically and environmentally beneficial while also providing fresh nutritious food to the growing number of Israelis in need.”
The beginning of the Maggid (the Telling of the Story) section of the traditional Haggadah begins with the following passage - with these words, we welcome all those who are in need to share the Passover meal with us.
“This is the bread of poverty and persecution that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and share the Pesach meal. This year we are still here, Next year, we will be in the land of Israel. This year we are still slaves. Next year we will be a free people.”
With these words from the Haggadah in mind, please consider donating to Leket Israel NOW and support this food rescue operation and help provide nutritious food for Israelis in need in time for the holiday.
For more information: Leket Israel
This article was written in cooperation with Leket Israel