Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The High Price of Tomatoes-- Don't Blame It All on Bibi!

For the past few weeks, there has been a choreographed campaign on the news blaming Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the rising prices of vegetables and other seasonal items.  Yes, you sharp readers already got the clue, "seasonal."

When we were new to Israel, well over forty years ago, my husband reported back to me after a frustrating search in Machane Yehuda for nice tomatoes one winter:
"They said that tomatoes don't grow in the winter, and I should tell you to make the salad out of cabbage." 
That was before the more expensive and less natural green/hot house agricultural industry.  Israel is a small country and even by utilizing the warmer Jordan Valley, we can't have fresh and tasty summer fruits and vegetables all year long.  According to many health experts, we shouldn't eat fruit and vegetables out of season, even if they are on sale at reasonable prices and even if they are grown naturally in a different location.  Citrus and avocados are for winter, while peaches and grapes are for the summer.  In the days when I ate felafel every few weeks, rather than one or two a year, I'd notice how the salad changed.  In the summer it would be full of tomatoes and cucumbers while the winter salad was mostly cabbage.

The leaves on my grape vines are drying and withering, as you can see on the two pictures I just took.  Yes, I ran out to the merpeset-terrace armed with my camera just to show you.  There are just a few grapes left to eat, and my grapes are late-ripening.

We don't live in a tropical jungle with food to pick freely at our fingertips.

Every single year at this, yes, pre-Holiday season the prices skyrocket.  Summer produce is no longer fresh and plentiful, and the winter fruits and vegetables aren't yet ripe.  Citrus will only be sweet, delicious and healthy after the first rains, in another month G-d willing.

Agricultural scientists do their best to extend the seasons, and the agricultural businessmen import what they can.  But remember that although we want to eat whatever we want when we want, there's a price to pay.  And it's not the government's fault, no matter who is in power.

There's one thing I learned pretty quickly living here in Israel.  No matter what the weather, no matter how much rain, the farmers complain.  The rain is either too early, too late, too little or too much. 

Our rain is the result of how G-d calculates our sins and mitzvot.  So, if we want more plentiful and less expensive produce, we must live according to G-d's instructions, each and every one of us.  G-d makes His calculations for the entire Jewish People together.  In another few days it'll be Rosh Hashannah and then Yom Kippur. It's time for Teshuva, Repentance.

Here's Latma's New Year's song:


Hadassa said...

I still think that the prices are higher than usual for the season, not that I blame Bibi. Disease, problems with irrigation, errors in judging how much should be planted etc. all play a role in the price of produce.

Miriam said...

Batya...we have a shortage because veggies are grown for export. When you export you have a shortage at home..driving up prices..

Farmers around me have tons of tomatoes...we see them every day....mostly for export!

Hot weather and price of water..shortage of water are just excuses.......


Batya said...

Hadassa, thanks for the added info.
Miriam, it happens every year at this season. Also super-ripe end of season tomatoes aren't sturdy enough for packing etc so they are "wasted" or used for industry. The govt wants the foreign currancy, so those contracts are honored before the local. That's necesary though unpleasant for us.

Bracha Goldman said...

When we blame our problems on externals, we miss the point - in Israel, especially, G-d tells us point-blank that rain and agricultural success are totally dependent on our actions. Batya Medad brings the spiritual component back into focus. Very timely as we approach Rosha Hashana. (posted to my facebook) Shana Tova. As former tomato-growers in the early 80's in Gush Katif, what you wrote about seasons is absolutely true, and it is only because we are from countries that import much of their food (Canada) or the U.S. which has many different climates and growing seasons, that we are less aware of this. Those who grew up here in Israel, and blame Bibi or whoever, are just out for cheap political gain.

Alan said...

>> we have a shortage because veggies are grown for export

Incorrect. You can eat challah & felafel because tomatoes were exported to earn the dollars that pay for the imported wheat.

You ===can=== change that. Go talk to a farmer and ask him to grow food for you, under contract. Quite a known practice in agriculture. Of course, now that you're asking him to forgo market revenues.... he's going to ask for some cash up front. After all, virtually all contract buyers make monthly payments to farm families.

You have one additional option. Get your teenager's lazy butt off the Facebook, and out into the fields. Hebrew Labor !!!

Batya, you know what a city person is? That's someone who demands that Rami Levy lowers his prices.... and then complains when there's a good strong rainfall.

Batya said...

Bracha, exactly, thanks so much.

Alan, what teenagers?

Remember that a "nice day" in the winter is a wet one!