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“Farms and pack houses in the South of Israel closed, people are fighting for their lives”

The fresh produce industry in Israel, particularly in the South of the country where farms have come to an abrupt standstill, is still reeling from this weekend's surprise attack from Hamas, who crossed the border from Gaza. According to Omer Kemp, based in Israel, from Europe Retail Packing B.V.: "The attacks are terrible and unprecedented. It is going to be a very difficult few weeks. The situation on the ground is very fluid. In the South, a lot of farms are not working and operating. Among the people kidnapped are 60 Thai workers. It is a rapidly changing security situation, and still too early to assess the full impact of the war on the fresh produce sector."

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a live address to his nation on October 7, 2023. Screengrab: PM Office

Following the surprise attack, Israel's army has called for the evacuation of people from areas around the Gaza Strip in the South, which includes many farming areas. It is believed that some people in the farming community are among the hundreds of people who have been killed and injured in the attacks. Army tanks are said to be driving over farms in maneuvers close to and around the border. It is said this is part of a planned ground assault into Gaza. The fruit and vegetable types grown in the South include avocados, citrus carrots, potatoes, and other field crops that are exported worldwide. The main export border points are said to be open, which include Ashdod Port, Haifa Port, as well as the main Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv.

Oron Ziv, of the Israeli fruit and vegetable exporter BeFresh Europe gives a general overview of the current situation. "It is complete chaos and terrible what is going on. Trade, business, and all activity in the Southern part of Israel is completely shut down. Pack houses are closed down; people are fighting for their lives. In the North, we are trying to work. All borders are closed, and no workers from the West Bank are allowed to cross into Israel. Some pack houses are working on a reduced scale. It is not clear what's happening in the ports. It is not clear what's taking place at the Ashdod Port while Haifa Port is open. It is a big question mark; the situation can change from one hour to the other. We are still trying to load containers. We have fruit that's in the pipeline. The new harvest is very hard to organize now. A lot of people who are reservists are being called up to serve in the army, that is also affecting their capability to work. It will have very serious consequences for the fruit business, although it is still way too early to say exactly what the impact will be. Now, as a country, we are still fighting and trying to stabilise the situation, especially those villages and Kibbutzim on the Gaza border. What happened there cannot be described in noble ways. Many people were captured, thousands were wounded, and it's not something we've faced before."

In the North of Israel, closer to and around the West Bank, the fresh produce sector is able to operate as normal, says Amir Porat, CEO of Gezer Shluhot, who are large carrot growers and exporters from the North. "At the moment, all our company employees are safe and sound, luckily the north part of Israel is still quiet; we hope it will stay that way and pray for peaceful times. In the South of Israel, the situation is much different. Hundreds of people got murdered in cold blood! As a food supplier, we do all we can to keep our operation going. Israel remembers and knows difficult times; we will know how to get out of the current horrifying situation."

The Israel-based smart crates manufacturer and supplier Plasgad stated: "Israel is currently facing one of its most, if not the most, challenging periods. Our hearts and prayers are with all the victims and their families all over Israel. Our hearts are broken, but we know we face a long and challenging time ahead of us. The Israeli people are strong and united, and we will overcome this."

For more information:
Omer Kamp
Europe Retail Packing
Tel.: 0174 282 510
Email: [email protected]

Oron Ziv
Tel.: +972 (0) 722 555 135 (Israel)
Email: [email protected]

Amir Porat
Gezer Shluhot
Tel.: +972 52 545 0781
Email: [email protected]