When Iranian shoppers discovered recently that they were apparently being offered Israeli pomelos for sale, a storm of protest swept the Islamic Republic.
The media showcased the contraband citrus, the warehouses where it was stored were shut down, and the authorities pledged to "bring to justice" the miscreants involved. A senior Iranian politician even accused the opposition of a "citrus fruit conspiracy."
The plot thickened when the BBC reported that the fruit - pomelit (a cross between a grapefruit and pomelo) sold abroad as "sweeties" - which were marketed under the brand-name Jaffa, had reached Iran via China.
Chinese exporters may have re-exported to Iran pomelits exported from Israel to Japan and South Korea with a fake Jaffa label.
Israel has sold the rights to the brand-name Jaffa to producers and marketers of citrus fruit in various countries, and it no longer necessarily indicates the fruit was grown in Israel. If the fruit is raised in Israel, marketers licensed to use the brand-name must remove the country name from the label.
Iranians have not seen Israeli fruit since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when trade was cut off between the two countries. Just two years earlier, the Iranians were enjoying no less than 40 tons a year of Zionist oranges.
Hai Binyamini, the secretary of Israel's Citrus Growers Association, said he didn't understand the point of falsifying a brand name to market the fruit in a country where the brand is unknown or unwanted.
Citrus growers in Israel currently raise some 600 tons of fruit, some 40 percent of which is exported as fresh fruit. In 2008, Israel's citrus exports totaled approximately $100 million, mainly to Western Europe, a 30-percent increase over the past three years.
England is the No. 1 market for Israeli citrus, followed by Scandinavia, Russia, Germany and France, Japan, South Korea and China. Israeli fruit also reaches the Gulf states through a third party without the origin marked.
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