Instead of imports, agriculture in Israel needs new initiatives

Ma’ariv, Israel, August 1

A reform unveiled by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Agriculture Minister Oded Forer will remove all tariffs on agricultural products produced abroad and imported into Israel. According to the two ministers, this will encourage the economy to open up to competition, lower prices, rationalize trade and allow economic investment in existing farms in Israel. On the other hand, there are Israeli farmers who are furiously protesting against this decision. After all, if the state prefers to import basic agricultural products such as fruits, vegetables and eggs, Zionism’s agricultural dream can truly come to an end. It won’t be completely unreasonable for local farmers to shut down their operations and sell their land to tycoons who will develop another skyscraper or commercial center. To justify the reform, the Ministry of Commerce tried to highlight the benefits of the reform. “It will soon be possible to buy apricots all year round,” said a statement. But the truth is, fruits and vegetables in Israel have been closely linked to the seasons, and when we see ripe watermelons on grocery store stalls, we know it’s summer outside. In addition to the fear of flooding the Israeli market with goods from overseas, farmers have claimed for years that large food chains in Israel are responsible for the high prices of fruit and vegetables. According to them, it is the wholesaler who cuts the big check; not the cultivator in the field. Is this reason enough to abolish tariffs on imports and bring in goods from abroad? Quite the contrary: provide financial support to the Israeli farmer by subsidizing the costs of irrigation of the plots, encourage farmers to cultivate their land through subsidies for the purchase of advanced technological tools and vehicles for the agriculture, and especially encourage young people to go and work in agricultural fields. These are the right solutions to the problem, not the massive importation of food. The farms around Israel implored workers. Minister Forer, who also serves as Minister of Development of the Negev and the Galilee, can encourage young people and families to settle in the Negev and the Galilee, settle there, benefit from social housing, and so renew the idea of ​​colonizing the Israeli countryside. In the meantime, the idea of ​​importing goods from abroad is worn and recycled. It is time for new initiatives, such as those that will revive the wilderness and boost Israeli agriculture, and our economy more broadly. All it takes is creative thinking and a desire to make things happen. –Orit Miller (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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