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Israeli farmers struggle as war and imports flood the tomato market

Farmers in settlements near the Gaza Strip, who returned to their plantations to start harvesting, found that there is no demand for their produce as the market is flooded with imported and cheaper tomatoes. The Ministry of Agriculture confirms a significant increase in tomato imports over the past two weeks, reaching 4,000 tons—20% more than usual. Normally, imports account for about 40% of the Israeli tomato market in October, but currently, it's around 60%.

One affected farm is "Meshak Evelai Ha-Koanim" in Moshav Evelai. The Cohen family, cultivating cherry tomatoes on a 100-dunam plantation, posted a plea for help on social media after their Thai workers left due to the war. Volunteers responded promptly, but the buyer later informed them that there was no demand for their produce and requested no further shipments.

Galit Havivyan from nearby Moshav Yated, married to Dror, a greenhouse tomato farmer, described the impact of the war on agriculture. Foreign workers started leaving, causing a collapse in the local agricultural sector, affecting 800 farmers supplying the majority of Israel's vegetables and fruits. Although volunteers helped with harvesting, it became evident that there was no demand for the produce.

The Israeli government's decision to import vegetables and fruits from Turkey forced local farmers to compete with importers. The Ministry of Agriculture, upon learning of the farmers' plight, is taking measures to stimulate local consumption, including a campaign in collaboration with "Leket Israel" to purchase local produce and provide support to farmers in the north and south.

Farmers express frustration, feeling that they are fighting on multiple fronts with a lack of labor, struggling to sell their produce, and facing financial challenges. The deputy director-general of the Ministry of Agriculture assures that they are committed to supporting farmers through investments and assistance, acknowledging the need to address the current crisis.


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