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Jerusalem (JTA) — In the land
where people pride themselves
on how small they can cut a veg-
etable salad, the soaring price of
tomatoes has hit Israelis hard.
The subject has been the topic
of radio call-in shows, newspaper
editorials and nationwide sur-
A Gallup poll released this
week found that 19 percent of the
350 respondents have complete-
ly stopped buying tomatoes, and
another 25 percent have signifi-
cantly cut their consumption of
the popular vegetable.
Prices have soared from be-
tween 50 percent to 80 percent in
the past month.
Reasons for the huge increas-
es include a poor agricultural sea-
son; the intermittent loss of Arab
workers when the administered
territories were closed off after
terrorist attacks; and a recent ban
on fruits and vegetables from the
Gaza Strip because of the out-
break of cholera there.
In one (non-scientific) Israel
Radio phone poll, 90 percent of
those surveyed said they would
boycott the pricey fruit to force
But a significant price cut did
not seem likely in the near future,
despite the much-anticipated an-
nouncement that several hun-
dred tons of tomatoes were on
their way from Jordan.
Cabinet ministers this week
were busy pointing fingers at
each other for the high prices and
Finance Minister Avraham
Shohat accused the Agriculture
Ministry of moving too slowly to
get approvals to import fruit and
vegetables. He suggested that the
public forgo eating tomatoes for
a while, in an effort to bring the
"I'm calling on the citizens of
the State of Israel to tell them
that it is not terrible at this time
of year not to buy tomatoes at 10
shekels a kilo (about $1.50 a
pound). It is possible to eat cheap-
er vegetables for a month or a
month and a half," said Mr.
He even got a little nostalgic.
"During certain periods in my
childhood I didn't eat tomatoes,
and I don't seem the worse for it."
Agriculture Minister Ya'acov
Tsur blamed the tomato shortage
on the Finance Ministry, for not
subsidizing Israeli farmers so
they would plant and maintain a
"I think the main lesson of this
event," said Mr. Tsar, "is that the
cheapest way to have produce in
the markets is really to encour-
age our own farmers and en-
courage them in such a way that
they will continue to plant and to
grow and to remain in this sec-
Yehuda Shani of the Supersol
supermarket chain said tomato
sales were down by 30 percent.
Regarding a consumer boycott,
he doubted it would have much
o _ f an impact on prices.
"The customers are angry,
we're angry. We just don't have
the volume to sell," he said.
One group of Israeli farmers
decided to do their part: Tomato
growers from Moshav Itamar on
the West Bank said they would
sell their organically grown prod-
uct for 5-6 shekels a kilo (less
than $1 a pound), even though
they usually export it for more,
Israel Radio reported. ❑
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