Israel’s largest port shut as protests escalate

As protests in Israel escalate further, the fresh produce industry is uncertain about the effects on harvesting, packing, and exporting. The Ben Gurion International airport in Tel Aviv suspended outgoing flights on Monday morning, while Haifa, the largest port in Israel, has come to a standstill after workers joined the country-wide general strike. Israel's largest trade union federation Histadrut has called the general strike opposing the Government's judicial overhaul plans.

The ongoing protests in Israel are against the Government's judicial review to limit the powers of the Supreme Court. The large-scale protests erupted in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem last night (Sunday, 26 March) after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired Defence Minister Yoav Gallant over the past weekend. Gallant called for a halt of the reforms, citing security concerns as Israel's defense force reserves were not enlisting for training in defiance of the planned government moves.

Currently in season and being exported from Israel are avocados, dates, fresh herbs, and citrus fruit, including the popular Orri mandarin and carrots that will benefit from the weaker Shekel. On the flip side, Israel also imports a variety of other fruit. A weaker Shekel means imported fruit becomes more expensive for consumers, such as pineapples, table grapes, and other exotic fruit.

Producers and exporters contacted by FreshPlaza said they are uncertain of the effect on the fresh produce industry:

"Flights are delayed for a short period, so it's not affecting fresh herbs and flower exports just yet," one exporter commented. However, the situation on the ground remains fluent as the protest action escalates by citizens.

"We just woke up to this news this morning. In Tel Aviv, everything is uncertain now. I want to be optimistic that things will hopefully calm down because we're going to have big holidays early in April," commentated one date grower in Israel.

Another large exporter commented that the airport and port strikes will "affect logistics," but it is too early to tell the full extent of the impact on exports.

The Israel currency, the Shekel, has weakened since the start of the year against other major trading currencies. This continues to provide relief and help for Israel's fresh produce export sector. After many years of exporters and producers complaining about diminished returns due to the stronger local currency, they are happy to receive some respite and see slightly better returns.

A large exporter of citrus, potatoes, and carrots from Israel commented on the situation: "I don't think there is any effect on the economy in Israel in general and certainly not on agriculture. There is no connection between the two things. Politicians can pass laws, and the left can try to scare and stress because it is not in power. We continue to work to harvest, produce, and agricultural export products. Regarding the weak Shekel, this is a bubble that will burst because it is only inflated by the left-wing media. On the contrary, it is now recommended to invest in Israel."

Developments in Israel are ongoing, with an updated article likely to follow within the week.

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