Arab farmers will be granted egg production quotas for the first time in the history of the State of Israel. The cabinet decided to grant such quotas a year ago based on a recommendation from the Agriculture Ministry in a bid to prevent intervention from the High Court of Justice.
Six Arab farmers who met the ministry's quality standards have now been chosen. However, other Arab farmers are complaining that the conditions set for receiving an egg quota make it financially not worthwhile.
Unofficially, milk and egg production have always been considered "Zionist agricultural branches" and have been chosen to provide a significant part of the livelihood for Jewish agricultural settlements - and Arabs and other minority group farmers have been consistently excluded from these sectors for years with various justifications. The production of milk and eggs and their sale in Israel requires licenses from the Agriculture Ministry or other statutory bodies under the ministry's auspices.
The Knesset Economic Affairs Committee met on Tuesday to discuss and approve the Agriculture Ministry's regulations for the production and sale of eggs for 2012. In 2011, 3,000 hen houses for egg production produced 1.9 billion eggs, and the plans for 2012 forecast similar numbers.
Almost all egg production in Israel is from moshavim, and two-thirds comes from the Galilee.
Only Israeli citizens qualify for the quotas, say the farmers, and the quotas are available only in "national priority areas," and the farmers must have land zoned for raising livestock and zoned for chicken coops. In addition, the growers must meet veterinary requirements and other restrictions.
Iad Magis from the village of Arb Alarmshe, who filed the original petition to the High Court of Justice that led to the allocation of quotas to Arab farmers, said he has yet to receive an answer to his request for quotas - and the numerous requirements will force farmers to give up on the quotas.
There are only two agricultural branches where farmers are paid a set price: milk and eggs. The price to farmers is set by a joint price committee of the finance and agriculture ministries and not by market forces. Certain eggs such as organic and free-range are not subject to these price lists. The price for consumers of 90% of the eggs produced and 30% of the milk is also set by such committees.
Egg and milk production are also the only "planned" agricultural branches in which every producer is granted a set production quota to prevent overproduction - and farmers are not allowed to exceed their quotas. Only farmers who have received permission from the Agriculture Ministry are allowed to produce milk or eggs.
The Economic Affairs Committee also approved quotas for some 60 new egg farmers.
Israeli farmers receive NIS 800 million a year for the eggs they produce - and consumers spend NIS 1.7 billion on those eggs.
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