This week, Israeli farmers from the Golan Heights and the Galilee were on hand to protest demands of the Trump White House to ease restrictions on imports of American agricultural products.
What those demands are is anyone’s guess. US and Israeli trade negotiations have started discussing Washington’s demands, but Israel’s Agriculture Ministry, which is holding the talks together with the treasury, is refusing to say what they are.
“We’re not interested in responding because the release to the public of any of the particulars during the negotiations would hurt the interests of the State of Israel,” the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
However, some sources speak of a document detailing US demands and they include about 40 different categories, not all of them strictly farm products.
If Washington gets its way, Israelis could be seeing much more US products on the shelves. Prices would likely fall for many products, but the fallout could be severe for Israeli growers, not only on the Golan and the Galilee but for other areas of Israel as well.
The status quo right now favors Israel: Israeli farmers can export however much they want to the United States, and their products are not subject to import duties there. However, Israel controls how much American produce is imported to Israel, limiting the quantities with quotas, as is the case for all imported produce in Israel.
Israelis today consume about 135,000 tons of apples a year, of which 120,000 are grown domestically. The United States is currently entitled to export 4,000 tons to Israel duty-free, but negotiators are seeking to more than triple that to 13,000 – a figure equal to more than 10% of the local market.
European countries and others around the globe also export apples to Israel, which will add to the price pressure from an increase in the US quota.
Pears are a much smaller market of just 30,000 tons annually. Right now Israeli growers account for 25,000 tons of that and American growers can export 1,300 tons duty-free. But the US wants to boost that to 4,000 tons.