Israeli farmers smash eggs, block roads in protest over produce import reform

“We intend to go with all our might against the coalition partners, even at the cost of a coalition crisis,” the Israeli Farmers Union said in a statement.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

Thousands of Israeli farmers took to the streets on Thursday morning, using tractors and other farming equipment to block major thoroughfares in protest of proposed produce importation reforms.

The farmers argue that the reforms, which would ease caps on importation of foreign produce, will financially devastate the Israeli agriculture industry.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman, who spearheaded the reform effort with the backing of the Agriculture Ministry, said that the reforms will lead to competition in the market and lower prices for Israeli consumers.

Farmers tossed eggs, onions, and other agricultural products onto the roads, while chanting and holding signs.

They blocked rush hour traffic in both directions for about two hours, from 7:30 AM to 9:30 AM, at the Megiddo, Kabri, Bilu, Ha’Roeh, Yahav, and Gilat junctions.

“Throwing eggs, fruits and vegetables on the roads while blocking the roads will not benefit consumers, will not lead to an increase in production or the level of consumption in any way, but will only harm them in other ways,” Liberman responded on Twitter.

“I am sorry that farmers choose not to focus on the heart of the matter and the most troubling question – why in the last 20 years fruit prices have risen by more than 100 percent, vegetables by more than 80 percent, while [Israeli] consumption has fallen by 20 percent?”

Shay Hajaj, head of the Merhavim Regional Council, told Ynet that the blame for the high produce prices lies with retailers and supermarket chains who artificially inflate prices – not the farmers.

“The brokerage fees are a crime. A commission of inquiry should be set up to examine the causes of such high fees and how they can be reduced,” he said.

“We intend to go with all our might against the coalition partners, even at the cost of a coalition crisis,” the Israeli Farmers Union said in a statement.

“The unilateral reform as it stands today is a clear statement by the finance and agriculture ministries that Israeli citizens will eat fruits and vegetables from Turkey, Jordan and Egypt, and eggs from Ukraine, all while farmers living in the Golan, [Judea and Samaria] and near Lebanon are forced to uproot their fields and register at the unemployment office.”