Photo Credit: Nati Shohat / Flash 90
Bees in a Beehive in Melo Hatene agricultural center. September 23, 2008.

In a peak year for honey production in Israel, Agriculture Minister Oded Forer and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman want to allow honey imports for Rosh Hashanah – a move that local bee growers say is purely political, taking advantage of the fact that Rosh Hashanah, when Jews dip their apples and challahs in honey, happens to fall during national election season.

The beekeepers’ organization reports that the Agriculture Ministry has been informed that honey production in Israel’s beehives is at a record high of about 4,200 tons – enough to supply all the honey consumption needs of Israelis throughout the Tishrei holidays.

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“Agriculture Minister Oded Forer is busy destroying agriculture in Israel for reasons known only to him,” the beekeepers said in a press release on Tuesday. “He wants, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, to import duty-free honey, and transfers the responsibility for this failure––that would surely lead to the destruction of the beekeeping industry––to the Yesh Atid party. To this end, Minister Forer requested on August 25, 2022, the approval of Yesh Atid’s Economy and Industry Minister Orna Barbivai.”

Beekeeper Hilaf Menachem at his beehive in Melo Hatene agricultural center. September 23, 2008. / Nati Shohat / Flash 90

There are 120 thousand beehives operated by Israeli beekeepers throughout the country. According to their group, this year’s abundant harvest, the result of the long winter, and high precipitation figures that extended into March and April produced copious spring and summer blossoms with plenty of nectar. Then came summer which started late this year, with temperatures that benefit the beehives and the honey production process.

Doron Livne, Chairman of the Israel Beekeepers Organization, stated: “This is a populist and absurd move which the Minister of Agriculture excuses as a move to ‘lower the cost of living’ on the backs of farmers and beekeepers, at a time when he knows that the imports will be more than the market needs, and after all the jars of honey have already been packed in Israel’s beehives and will be on the shelves in abundance in very short order and at a fixed wholesale price that has not risen since a year ago. This is why he transfers the responsibility for the failure he is creating to the Yesh Atid party. The citizens of Israel are hearing the promises of Israel Beiteinu ministers about bringing down food prices––which in the meantime are only rising despite the imports flooding Israel’s markets and destroying Israel’s farmers.”

The beekeepers’ group rushed an urgent letter to Minister Barbivai, warning that “Minister Forer’s proposal relies on unsubstantiated data, in the absence of a staff study regarding the consequences that may arise from an excess supply of imported honey, the pollination in the various branches of the local agriculture, and all this in clear contradiction of the terms of the Finance Ministry’s decree that imports must be made ‘in accordance with local growing conditions,’ which he signed on June 16. Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman plans to open up duty-free quotas for honey imports, while discussions of this matter have not yet been decided.”

Avshalom Willan, Secretary-General of the Israel Farmers’ Association, said in a statement: “This is a populist step whose only reason is the desire of the finance and agriculture ministers to win votes at the expense of the honey growers. It’s a move that’s only about the coming elections. Israeli beekeepers produce excellent honey that’s sold at a fair price to the citizens, and there’s no reason to approve the unreasonable and excessive import of 560 tons of honey. I call on the Minister of the Economy not to needlessly support this fatal harm to the beekeepers, and not to allow the Ministers of Finance and Agriculture to turn the holiday from sweet to bitter.”

According to the Central Bureau of Statistics data, despite the increase in prices throughout the economy and the increase in the price of honey around the world, Israeli honey is marketed to various marketing chains at the same prices as in recent years, and therefore no increase in consumer honey prices is expected for the Tishrei holidays. In fact, consumer honey prices are on a downward trend.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.