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March 08, 1996 - Image 68

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1996-03-08

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.



Inflation Hits Israelis
In Their Salad Bowls

1996 Cadillac Sedan DeVille


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Jerusalem (JTA) — In the land
where people pride themselves on
how small they can cut a vegetable
salad, the soaring price of toma-
toes 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 completely
stopped buying tomatoes, and an-
other 25 percent have significant-
ly 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 increases
include a poor agricultural season.,
the intermittent loss of Arab work-
ers when the administered terri-
tories were closed of after terrorist
attacks; and a recent ban on fruits
and vegetables from the Gaza
Strip because of the outbreak of
cholera there.
In one (non-scientific) Israel Ra-
dio phone poll, 90 percent of those
surveyed said they would boycott
the pricey fruit to force prices

A price cut did not
seem likely in the
near future.

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But a significant price cut did
not seem likely in the near future,
despite the much-anticipated an-
nouncement that several hundred
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 short
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 forego eating tomatoes for
a while, in an effort to bring the
price down.
"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 cheaper vegetables
for a month or a month and a
half," said Mr. Shohat.
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 large
"I think the main lesson of this
event," said Mr. Tsur, "is that the
cheapest way to have produce in
the markets is really to encourage
our own farmers and encourage
them in such a way that they will
continue to plant and to grow and
to remain in this sector."
Yehuda Share of the Supersol
supermarket chain said tomato
sales were down by 30 percent. Re-
garding a consumer boycott, he
doubted it would have much of an
impact on prices.
"The customers are angry, we're
angry. We just don't have the vol-
ume to sell," he said.
One group of Israeli farmers de-
cided 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.

Inflation Concern
Raises Rates

Jerusalem (JTA) — In a move
aimed at curbing rising inflation,
the Bank of Israel has announced
a 1.5 percent hike in interest rates,
the eighth such increase in the
past year.
In making the announcement,
Bank of Israel Governor Jacob
Frenkel warned that the govern-
ment must take additional steps
to rein in inflation, 'CS hich is cur-
rently running at about 16 percent
— nearly twice the government's
initial target for 1994.
The increase will go into effect
on Dec. 1. The discount rate, which
the central bank charges on loans
to the country's commercial banks,
is expected to rise to about 18.5
Interest rates have nearly dou-
bled during the past year. The
prime rate, which banks charge
to their top customers, may rise to
nearly 20 percent, according to
news reports here.
Reaction to this week's rate hike
was immediate, with stock prices
dropping slightly Monday after
posting gains of some 6 percent
the day before.
In other economic news, the
Kne,sset last week approved a con-
troversia110 percent capital gains
tax to be imposed on Israeli in-
vestors in the stock market.
The legislation, which takes ef-
fect in January, passed 45-30, with
five abstentions.
Members of the Likud opposi-
tion vowed to abolish the legisla-
tion should it come to power in the
country's next elections.


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