Israeli agriculture minister: No food crisis due to coronavirus

The local supply is enough for everyone, said Tzachi Hanegbi at an emergency agricultural meeting.

 By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Israel can meet the food needs of its citizens despite a world-wide slowdown in trade due to the coronavirus, Agriculture Minister Tzachi Hanegbi said Wednesday.

“The farmers know how to supply all the market’s needs in fruit, vegetables, eggs, milk and poultry,” Hanegbi said at an emergency meeting with the heads of rural regional councils and agricultural organizations.

The veteran Likud Party politician pointed out that all those foods are produced locally and in abundance. He noted that only citrus fruit may be a problem because of a labor shortage that meant produce is rotting on the trees instead of getting to the stores.

Hanegbi also expressed confidence in the farmers’ ability to meet any future challenges.

“Together with growers and importers, we will work to maintain food supply and food security for the entire population, even if the disease spreads,” he said.

Shai Hajaj, chairman of the Regional Councils Center and the head of the Merhavim regional council, was similarly upbeat.

“Today we can say to the citizens of Israel: You can relax, no shortage of fresh food is expected before Passover [April 8-15] or Independence Day [April 29]. Israel’s agricultural products currently meet the amount of consumption. No eggs, no chicken, beef or milk will be missing.”

However, Hajaj sounded a note of caution and used the opportunity to push the minister for policy changes to favor more domestic production.

“In order to ensure fresh food in Israel, local produce must be relied upon rather than imports, and [government imposed] quotas should be increased for [Israeli] agriculture,” he said. Hajaj claimed that farmers could increase domestic production and wanted the government to “build an agricultural policy that ensures fresh food security in Israel from now on.”

Airline flight cancellations due to the health crisis have affected imports of some foods, and fresh fish from abroad may be in short supply, Hanegbi said.

Israelis have been stocking up on dry goods and toiletries in response to the self-quarantine procedures that have put more than 30,000 citizens into isolation due to fear of infection from the coronavirus.