Unnaturally high pineapple prices in Israel

The global pineapple market recently experienced a supply shortage created in part by a decline in exports from Costa Rica; this pushed prices up in the major markets until only recently, when those markets could recover and stabilise. One country that did not feel this effect however is Israel, where throughout the year the price of pineapples has remained virtually constant, at 30 shekels (7 euros) per kilo on average.

There are two major factors at play here, one being the limited supply and high production costs of locally grown pineapples, and the other being the low reliance of the local market on imports due to plant safety concerns primarily.

Israel consumes roughly 3,500 tonnes of pineapple every year, of which more then 3,000 tonnes come from local production. The majority of this supply is grown on some 120 hectares by only 30 or so different growers, mostly located in the central and northern coastal plains of the country. The lack of growers combined with the bi-annual yields of the pineapple create a constraint on the supply available in the market. Yaakov Sizel, a veteran pineapple grower from central Israel, explained that “there is difficulty in growing pineapple [in Israel], the plant likes constant temperatures of 17-27 degrees, its yield cycle is 20 months, this is the reason not many growers have entered this market.” He adds that though the demand in Israel has remained relatively constant, this situation necessitates the high prices, which allow growers to maintain profitability.

Total pineapple imports in Israel are around 450 tonnes annually, despite the fact that the cost of import is considerably lower then the cost of local production, even when accounting for treatment costs and transportation by air. In fact, the imported pineapple is not considered to be a competitor for growers in Israel, as the demand outstrips the supply they are able to provide. Importation is limited in large part by harsh pest and plant disease controls implemented by the Israeli ministry of agriculture, which states that “pineapple is grown in tropical regions, where the local plant diseases and pests are foreign to our region and could cause severe damages to the local agriculture and even destroy entire sectors. For that reason importation to Israel is only permitted after a thorough risk assessment process conducted by the ministry of agriculture.”

The vetting process for pineapple imports introduces a bureaucratic element, which slows down the ability of importers to respond to excess demand. As recently as last year, there were multiple requests to import pineapple from Thailand and the Philippines at attractive prices for consumers, but those have been held up or delayed by the ministry’s inspections.

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