Two major Israeli companies, Schuffersal and Rami Levi, have ceased purchasing grapes from South Africa due to worries about a potential consumer boycott linked to South Africa’s legal action against Israel.

The Marker

Following the success of the farmers’ campaign against the import of Turkish tomatoes, Schuffersal and Rami Levi stopped ordering grapes from South Africa, fearing a consumer boycott. According to industry estimates, grapes will disappear from the shelves for a few months.

The reason for the boycott was a lawsuit by South Africa against Israel before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The plaintiffs accuse Israel of genocide in the Gaza Strip.

Food chains are following the campaign against South African grape imports launched by the Israeli Farmers’ Association, taking the painful lesson from a similar campaign by farmers against imports from Turkey.

The Lahish mosque company, which in the eyes of local consumers identifies with Israel, in the winter months traditionally imports grapes from South Africa, but now it has been decided to suspend orders. As grapes are only allowed to be imported into Israel from South Africa, the industry claims that grapes will soon disappear from shelves and will only appear in a few months when local grapes start to come into stores.

South Africa is considered one of the world’s largest grape exporters. The climate in South Africa is suitable for growing in the months when they are not cultivated in Israel and Europe, and the only way to sell them in the winter season is to import them. Fruits, mainly grapes, account for about half of imports from South Africa, amounting to about $85 million (as of 2021). According to the Foreign Trade Office of the Ministry of Economy, hundreds of tons of grapes are imported to Israel from South Africa every year.

The strongest brand on the market

Anwey Tali is the leading brand in the Israeli market. According to industry sources, the grapes that the company imports in the winter months from South Africa are packaged and sold under the brand name Anwey Tali.

Unlike in previous years, retailers and importers are now much more sensitive to public pressure over the country of origin of fruit and vegetables. This was facilitated by the entry into force of a law requiring the marking of the country of origin of all agricultural products in supermarkets. The law was passed last year and entered into force about a month after the war began. This increased consumer awareness and made it difficult for sellers to hide the country of origin of the fruit and vegetables.

The story of the import of Turkish tomatoes after the start of the war became a turning point. Farmers accused local sellers of preferring Israeli products to products from a country that supports the enemy. Consumers joined the boycott, putting pressure on the net, which in several cases led to large losses for retailers who had to sell goods imported from Turkey to a loss.

However, unlike tomatoes, which can be imported from other countries, grapes are banned by the Ministry of Agriculture because of concerns about the penetration of pests. The exception is South Africa.

As part of the recently adopted Economic Regulation Act, a section has been approved that obliges the Ministry to ensure that imports from other countries are open, but as far as grapes are concerned, the work has not yet been completed. The ministry says that in the future it will be possible to import grapes from countries in Asia and Eastern Europe, and by then – in the coming months – there may be a deficit, which can lead to a price jump.

The Ministry of Agriculture replied: “Importers decide what they import and where they come from. The Ministry encourages the public to buy local products, preferring seasonal vegetables and fruits grown in Israel.”

The Ministry of Agriculture adds: “With the entry into force of the Law on the Marking of the Country of Origin, the consumer can now make an informed choice. We hope that, given the increased transparency, consumers will prefer Israeli products. As far as imports are concerned, several countries are in the process of obtaining permission to import grapes into Israel.”

“We grow and supply Israeli grapes all year round, except in the winter months, from January to March, when we import grapes to ensure continuity of supply. As soon as South Africa’s trial against Israel began, we stopped importing grapes from that country.” –

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