Avocados Grow With No One to Pick Them

by Hillel Fendel (December 2, 2009 – Israelnationalnews.com)

The shortage of agriculture workers could cost the avocado industry up to 40 million shekels, as the fruit on the trees have no one to pick them. Avocado exports could drop by as much as 20 percent, says the Director of the Fruit Growers Association, Ilan Eshel, noting that there has been an ongoing backlog in fruit-picking since the beginning of the season two months ago.

“If the government does not allow us to bring in foreign workers immediately,” Eshel warns, “some 10,000 tones of avocado will rot on the trees, costing the farmers and the state treasury 40 million shekels (nearly $10 milion).”

The farmers have protested the lack of workers with a tractor drive-in along southern region highways, and they plan a giant demonstration in Jerusalem on Sunday.

“The farmers, with help from the State, invested tens of millions of shekels in recent years in planting avocado orchards along the coast and in the northern valleys,” Eshel continued. “But instead of being able to enjoy the ‘fruits’ of our labor in exports, we are all losing. We are also hurting our reputation as reliable exporters, as customers abroad who don’t receive their orders turn to other suppliers.”

At a recent Knesset Audit Committee session, Chairman MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima) castigated the government for not fulfilling its agreements with the farmers. He said the government must ensure that 26,000 Thais are ready for work by Jan. 1, 2010.

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