Tomatoes - 24112011
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Tomato prices at supermarkets doubled over the past week from NIS 5 per kilogram to NIS 10.

This is due to a lack of workers, said farmers' representative Meir Tzur. Planting, growing and picking tomatoes is labor intensive, explained Tzur, who is chairman of the Israeli Farmers' Federation and secretary-general of the Moshav Movement. He blamed the price increase on a chronic lack of foreign workers.

This shortage of foreign workers has led many farmers to quit the tomato business in recent years, further exacerbating the shortage.

The recent spate of cold weather was also a factor, as it made tomatoes ripen more slowly, especially large ones being grown outdoors.

Farmers receive NIS 4 per kilo from wholesalers and large supermarket chains, said Tzur. This means consumers are paying a 150% markup. However, many supermarkets run sales a few days a week, at which time tomatoes are sold for less.

Tomatoes are selling for NIS 6.10 per kilo in the wholesale markets, said the Agriculture Ministry. However, many supermarkets have direct contracts with farmers and pay significantly less than wholesale prices for their produce.

A kilo of tomatoes costs NIS 9.49 at Mega Ba'ir and NIS 7.90 at My Super-Sol, a survey by TheMarker found. Super-Sol Deal, the chain's discount brand, is selling the fruit for NIS 6.99 per kilo, while AM:PM is charging NIS 9.90.

But some are selling for much less: Rami Levi-Shivuk Hashikma is offering tomatoes for NIS 3.90 and Super-Sol's website lists tomatoes for NIS 3.79 per kilo. Mega's website is offering them for much more, at NIS 8.29.