Israel - Fruits and Vegetables on Strike
Israel - The Farmers Federation for Israel halted the supply of produce and dairy to markets for two days starting Monday, in protest of the foreign worker shortage in the agriculture industry. Finance Ministry officials planned to meet with the farmers on Wednesday afternoon to discuss their demands.
Wholesale markets selling fruit, vegetables, eggs and dairy products to stores were closed for the strike, and the slaughterhouses stopped their activity as well in solidarity.
"This is our warning sign to the government, which goes to show what we can do when the entire industry works together," Farmer's Federation Secretary-General Abu Vilan told Ynet. If the strike does not help, Vilan said, the farmers will hold a longer strike next week.
Protest stations were set up in major intersections around Israel, where farmers gave out produce and flowers to passersby.
Egg, dairy or meat shortages were not expected to occur, but the supply of fresh produce in stores and farmers' markets was estimated to taper off towards Wednesday. Officials from major supermarket chains told Ynet that they stocked up sufficiently in anticipation of the strike.
The farmers demand the government to honor an agreement they signed which promised an increase in the number foreign agriculture workers from 22,000 to 26,000. The Farmer's Federation is also demanding the Finance Ministry to put an end to the employer taxes it collects for the foreign workers. Farmers pay the government thousands of NIS a year for each migrant they employ.
Finance Ministry officials slammed the farmers on Sunday, saying the strike was uncalled for and the industry's claims were unfounded. In an attempt to bypass the strike, the ministry considered temporarily increasing the quotas and reducing customs taxes on produce imported to Israel.