Mr. S. Tolkowsky, general manager of the Jaffa Citrus Exchange, addressing press representatives in Tel Aviv, said:â€”
“The Citrus Industry is faced with a number of problems which demand urgent and radical solution, if we wish to avoid, drifting into a position fraught with the most serious consequences to the industry, and consequently to the whole of the economic life of the country.”
After speaking of the enormous growth of the citrus industry; the appalling lack of port, railway, wagon, and shed facilities, and the impassable trade restrictions in foreign countries, Mr. Tolkowsky said:â€”
“The world looks admiringly upon the prosperity which Palestine, unique among all countries, enjoys at present. But disaster and ruin lie in wait for us if the government of the country will not awake to a correct appreciation of its duty before it is too late.
“This season more than 6,000,000 boxes of citrus fruit will be exported, and in about seven or eight years the area which is already planted will be producing at least 20,000,000 boxes for export,” he continued. “They had to reckon from now onwards with an average increase of about 2,000,000 boxes each year. They were experiencing the greatest difficulty in exporting the present crop, because the railways are short of wagons and of locomotives.
“Jaffa has neither a port, nor sufficient storage space, and the stores that are being built there at present will most probably be insufficient in a year or two; at Haifa there is not enough space in the transit sheds, nor enough berths. The government must at once take steps to increase the capacity of the railways and of the ports in a measure corresponding to the very large crops of the next few years.
“The government is said to have recommended to the Colonial Office the construction of six or seven more berths at Haifa, but even if the Colonial Office approves of this expenditure at once, it will take about three years to complete the work. Until the last few days, the railways were unable to supply sufficient closed wagons and have compelled the exporters to load their fruit in open wagons, ordinarily used for the transport of manure.
“Next Winter the railways will have to have at their disposal at least 600 covered wagons and for every following season they will have to acquire at least an additional 250 wagons. In addition they will naturally have to make provision for a corresponding increase in the number of locomotives. The people of Palestine have the right to demand that the government should at last wake up to a correct appreciation of this duty.”
It is of the greatest importance, he went on, that the trunk road through the Maritime Plain, which at present leads from Jaffa and Tel Aviv to near Raananah, should be continued and completed up to Haifa in time for the coming winter. This road will be of the greatest use in relieving the pressure on the railways whenever weather conditions and rough seas at Jaffa lead to a sudden increase in the quantity of goods which have to be carried to or from Haifa. To allow this road to be used to the fullest advantage, it will be necessary in all future extensions of quay space and transit sheds at Haifa to make the necessary arrangements for enabling a large number of motor-lorries with trailers to be unloaded at the transit sheds or on the quays.
“I feel it my duty,” said Mr. Tolkowsky, “to warn the government that about 7,500 square meters of covered space is the very minimum which the citrus industry will require next Winter, and it will need an additional 3,500 square meters every following season. It will be seen that it is the highest time for government to realize that it cannot any longer afford to go on with its present policy of endeavoring to centralize at all cost all our seaborne trade at Haifa, and that through its stubborn refusal to build a harbor at Jaffa, the government is simply contributing to the ruin of the citrus trade.”
Mr. Tolkowsky complained that there was great delay in carrying out urgently required works. When a decision is taken to effect some improvement, he said, it takes such a long time before the work is actually taken in hand, that it is usually completed after much damage has already been caused,
He cited several instances, including the contemplated building of loading sheds at the stations of Tel Aviv and Hederah, and enlarging the existing sheds at Rehoboth, and Petach Tikvah. The only shed that was completed was after the heavy rains of about a month ago, with the result that many thousands of boxes of fruit were spoiled by rain and mud at the railway stations. Nearly a year ago it was pointed out that transit shed No. 2 at Haifa, ought to be provided with rain gutters. The instructions were given in October, and to this moment the work has not been begun.
“These are a few illustrations,” said Mr. Tolkowsky, “of the manner in which the Palestine government cares for the most vital interests of the principal, and I would almost say, the only, export crop of the country.
The position of Palestine “is simply tragic” as regards foreign markets, Mr. Tolkowsky said. Taking advantage of the very high and still rapidly increasing purchasing capacity of Palestine, the whole of Europe and many countries on other continents go on pouring into this country enormous quantities of goods, while