The per kilogram price of tomatoes in the open market today soared to NIS 11.80 while the prices of cucumbers and squash climbed to NIS 10.80 per kilogram. Vegetables of poorer quality were sold at prices in the NIS 7-9 per kilogram range.
The prices are taken from the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, although vegetables were also sold at similar prices in other markets. The supermarket chains today continued to sell vegetables at money-losing prices, because they attract customers.
The steep rise in vegetable prices is expected to increase towards the end of the week at peak shopping times for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and it is believed that vegetable prices will go on rising.
The high prices in the markets are a direct result of an increase in wholesale vegetable prices. In just one week, the wholesale price of tomatoes jumped from NIS 4.50 per kilogram to NIS 7.40-7.80 per kilogram, an increase of up to 75%. The price of cucumbers rose 25% during this time, from NIS 4 to NIS 5 per kilogram. The price of squash was already high a week ago, and remained stable at NIS 7.40-7.80 per kilogram.
"The farmers have neglected their fields"
The retailers and the farmers are blaming each other for the high prices. The farmers say that vegetables have ripened prematurely, while some of the retailers say that the farmers are taking advantage of the timing of the Rosh Hashanah holiday to put up their prices. Both sides agree that there is a shortage.
Ronnie Mizrahi, a vegetable wholesaler form the wholesale market in Jerusalem, provided an explanation for the price rise to "Globes." "There's a shortage of agricultural produce, and the price is a result of supply versus demand. Part of it is caused by the heat wave, which made the vegetables ripen prematurely. There's also a shortage of cherry tomatoes. The list price in the wholesale market is NIS 9, but good-quality cherry tomatoes are actually being sold for NIS 11-12 in the wholesale market. There is a shortage of good merchandise."
"Globes": Do you expected the price of tomatoes to rise this week?
Mizrahi: "Yes. Towards the end of the week, it is expected to reach NIS 10-12 a kilo in the wholesale market. Sometimes, though, people have no money, and the produce is not sold, in which case the price falls and stabilizes."
Why is the price still rising?
"When we sold a 10-kg. carton of tomatoes a month ago for NIS 10, no one called to ask why. There were surpluses, and the farmers went bankrupt. The merchandise ripened prematurely, and went to market all at once at a low price. Due to the low price and lack of viability, the farmers neglected their fields, and did not try to extend the growing period. Those who kept care of their hothouses, or had late-growing plants, are now benefiting from the high prices. There are some farmers who are doing poorly, and some are benefiting from the high prices."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 6, 2015
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