farmers - Eliyahu Hershkowitz - November 23 2010
Growers from the south of the country blocking the Sdot Negev Junction in protest of a paucity of foreign field hands. Photo by Eliyahu Hershkowitz
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The farmers' strike, which began at the beginning of the week, has ended with somewhat of a whimper, without the shortages of fresh produce and eggs and poultry that the agricultural sector predicted. The leaders of the strike formally called off their action, which was organized to protest what they said was the government's refusal to allow them to bring in the additional foreign laborers they said they needed to work on Israeli farms.

Before the strike was called off yesterday, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon met with representatives of the farmers and resolved that a joint committee would be convened with the agriculture sector that is to come up with recommendations within three weeks to address the farmers' claims over shortages of foreign workers. The farmers' representatives received assurances from the cabinet ministers that the recommendations would be adopted.

The agricultural sector is demanding permission to bring in an additional 4,000 laborers from Thailand, thereby increasing its quota of foreign workers to 26,000. The treasury says the actual shortfall in the number of farmhands is less than 2,000. One strike activist said the joint committee would be given a chance to develop its proposals, but warned if the farmers' needs are not met, strike action would be resumed that would be more disruptive than this week's sanctions.