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Thousands of farmers protest reform, block eight major junctions

CM 29/07/2021

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Thousands of farmers and agriculture workers have been blocking eight major junctions on Thursday morning, in protest of the reforms proposed by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman and Agriculture Minister Oded Forer, which they claim will threaten their livelihoods.The farmers blocked the junctions and scattered agricultural produce and eggs on the roads.Israeli farmers protest reform, July 29th, 2021. (Credit: Israel Farmers' Protest Headquarters)Israeli farmers protest reform, July 29th, 2021. (Credit: Israel Farmers’ Protest Headquarters)Heavy traffic jams ensued between 7:30 AM-9:00 AM, as the farmers used tractors, trucks and other heavy equipment in order to slow and eventually halt traffic.

The new laws aim to recognize European standards on fruits and vegetables and will aim to create more competition in the industries, which is supposed to lower prices. This will be done gradually by lowering tariffs on fruit and vegetables.

Alongside adopting European standards on fruits and vegetables, regulations on European fruits will be loosened, meaning there will be a bigger range of fruits available all year round.
“The agriculture reform is one of the most important in the Arrangements Law and comes to strengthen the Israeli farmer while treating the cost of living and benefit with consumers,” Liberman said when announcing the reforms last week. He also said that the program will save Israelis some NIS 2.7 billion a year, or NIS 840 per household.Onions spilled on a road by farmers protesting the agricultural reform, July 29th, 2021 (Credit: Farmer Protest Headquarters)Onions spilled on a road by farmers protesting the agricultural reform, July 29th, 2021 (Credit: Farmer Protest Headquarters)
The reform includes compensation for the agricultural industry in the form of a support package that includes things such as direct financial support for each farmer per cultivated dunam. It also offers expanded tax benefits to encourage capital investment and an investment of over NIS 2 billion for raising productivity in the agriculture industry.The farmers believe they will be financially hurt by the reforms. While many understand that food prices are too high, they say that the reform’s aims are misplaced and should instead target the suppliers of the products, who they believe artificially inflate the prices.
“Farmers from all over Israel went out to protest and say clearly: The prices in supermarkets are high not because of the farmers, who only receive a few shekel per kg for their produce, but because of the supermarket chains, who multiply the prices and make millions of shekels off of the backs of the farmers and consumers,” said Avshalom (Avi) Vilan, head of the Israeli Farmers Union.”The farmers have no control over the prices or on the price of living” he continued. “What we see here is the cowardice of the Finance and Agriculture ministers, who are afraid to challenge the retailers and supermarket chains, and therefore are bullying the farmers, who work in the fields no matter the weather.”Vilan added that “we are spread out in junctions all across the country to prove that Israel’s agriculture will not be shut down. We will not comply with a reform that will harm the state, the farmers, the consumers, and the collective physical and nutritional safety.” Police announced around 9:00 a.m. that the Megiddo, Cabri, Ha’Roeh, Bilu, Gilat and Yahav junctions were blocked off due to the protests; they were reopened at about 9:45.

Source: Jerusalem Post

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