Israel’s airlines will receive additional financial assistance from the Finance Ministry of up to $44 million, according to a resolution the government is expected to pass on Sunday. El Al is slated to receive about $30 million of this money, based on out-of-pocket matching funds from the controlling owner Kenny Rosenberg.
However, even as its appeal for more taxpayer money is being discussed, the national carrier has reneged on its commitment to Israeli farmers, especially flower and spice growers, for who the period from mid-November to the new year is their money time. El Al has abruptly canceled cargo flights to Europe scheduled for early December, and the growers are afraid of getting stuck with the goods, which would cost millions.
The growers turned to Agriculture Minister Oded Forer (Israel Beiteinu) and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli (Labor) over the weekend, demanding that they intervene immediately. “This is a death blow, it will cause serious damage to the growers and a loss of millions of shekels,” they warned, adding that their customers overseas would lose confidence in the Israeli growers’ ability to provide continuous supply.
According to Ynet, urgent demand from the far east for cargo flights ahead of Christmas is attracting the leasing cargo companies El Al has been using, and the Israeli carrier can’t compete with the new prices.
Anna Meller, chairwoman of the Spice Growers Association in Israel, told Ynet that “El Al has informed exporters from one day to the next that they are canceling the flights for early December and have not even given us a date for renewal. If they had come six months ago, we would have found a solution. Now we are at a loss. We’ve just begun to recover from the Corona crisis.”
According to Meller, Israeli annual spice exports have reached €70 million, with Christmas accounting for 30% to 40% of annual sales. “Some growers will have to close their farms if they are left with the merchandise. The damage is twofold – we won’t provide our products for the holiday, and our customers will abandon us.”
The solution seems obvious to this reporter: let the government take the $30 million it was planning to give El Al and give it to the farmers. Call your MK…