Text size

Wheat growers in the northern Negev yesterday said they were pleased with the hike in the price of their commodity, which shot up from $120 a ton in 2006 to $280 in 2008. They said the increase in revenue will yield greater profits, allow them to expand the area under cultivation and raise the value of their property.

Some farmers, however, complained that the worldwide increase in the price of wheat, barley, soy and corn will raise the cost of feed for their livestock.

Hanan Broude, of the Western Negev kibbutz of Miflasim, says only 10 percent of wheat consumed in Israel is locally grown, with the rest being imported from abroad.

One of the key causes for the rise in wheat prices is a worldwide shortage in seeds. This could cause shortages in animal feed and consequently set off a chain reaction of increases in food prices.

Rami Polko, of Kibbutz Ruhama, said the seed shortage has been exacerbated by the focus of Israeli farmers on crops that requires heavy irrigation, as opposed to wheat and barley.

"It's not wise for country short on water and energy to grow crops that require so much water and then export the produce to Europe," Polko said. "In Israel there is a surplus of potatoes, which require four times more water than wheat."

Nissim Peretz, who owns a ranch in the Western Negev, said many livestock owners are trying to cull their herds because they cannot afford to buy seeds, which are their herds' main feed source. "Many people can't sustain their herds because of the price of seeds," Peretz said.

The leaning silo of Be'er Sheva

A storage silo in Be'er Sheva containing 1,200 tons of wheat seed is in danger of collapse. It is listing by 30 degrees, according to local firefighters. If it collapses the resulting dust cloud is liable to explode.

"We are consulting with the city engineer and other authorities from Israel and abroad," fire department official Gershon Kalimi said.

Authorities are debating a course of action. Emptying the silo would take several days and could itself cause a collapse. Installing support columns is a possibility, but the lack of suitable equipment and of space around the silo make that idea impractical.