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Dispute over Tomatoes Resolved

An inter-ministerial dispute over tomatoes appeared to be resolved. The Agriculture Ministry decided this week not to import them for the time being.

Acting Minister of Agriculture Ezer Weizman seems to have emerged the victor, though he walked off the job in disgust last week when the Finance Ministry announced over his objections that 100 tons of tomatoes would be air-freighted from Spain.

The reason was the seasonal shortage which has sent the price of tomatoes soaring from 2-3 Shekels a kilo to 8-9 Shekels. Weizman, standing in for Agriculture Minister Arieh Nehamkin who is abroad, vetoed the import on grounds that prices will drop sharply when the Jordan Valley crop reaches the market.

But Finance Minister Moshe Nissim overrode Weizman after consulting with Nehamkin by telephone last Wednesday. Nehamkin ordered his aides to go ahead with the import. The Ministry has since discovered that Israeli families are buying tomatoes at the equivalent of $2.50 a pound, despite urgings from consumer organizations to boycott them until the price comes down.

The Ministry also discovered that European tomatoes available here are of a small variety which is unpopular with Israeli consumers. Jordan Valley growers meanwhile promised that their crop will reach the market very soon.

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