Wholesale Produce Price Hikes Reach Store Shelves

Big food retailers had been holding back passing on higher costs because of the holidays.

Vered Guttman

The soaring price of fresh produce in the wholesale market that began two weeks ago has begun reaching store shelves.

Supermarket chains had resisted passing on the increases to shoppers during the holiday period, but starting on Sunday they began raising prices. Produce stories and small groceries, unable to sell for a loss, had already raised their prices, but intense competition among the supermarket chains had deterred the latter from making the move.

A survey by TheMarker conducted on the Mysupermarket shopping site found that tomatoes were selling at Super-Sol Deal for 7.90 shekels ($2.01) a kilogram on Sunday, up from 5.90 last Thursday. Tomato prices at the Mega Ba’ir chain rose to 7.90 shekels per kilogram, from 6.90, but the price at Mega’s You discount supermarkets did not go up.

In the wholesale market, tomato prices were slightly lower on Sunday but not as low as two weeks ago, according to the wholesale-price tracking website Yerekom. Grade A tomatoes were selling for 7 shekels a kilogram, down from 8 the week before.

Cucumbers were selling at Super-Sol Deal on Sunday at 7.90 a kilogram, up from 5.90, but with wholesale prices at 10 shekels, it was still selling them at a loss despite the increase. Mega Ba’ir raised its prices to 7.60 from 6.90 while the discount retailer Rami Levy was selling them from 4.90, up from 3.90.

An executive as one medium-sized retailer blamed extensive media coverage for the supermarkets’ move. .

“All the stories in the media about wholesale prices rising legitimized price rises for the chains,” he said. “Of course there was a legitimate reason for raising prices — the chains really are paying more for produce — but if people hadn’t talked about it so much, prices wouldn’t have been boosted.”

Prices have been climbing after two August heat waves reduced harvests. But the Agriculture Ministry has eased quotas on imports and demand around the Yom Kippur fast is low. Rami Levy, founder and CEO of the chain that goes by his name, said he expected prices to come down by the Sukkot holiday, next week.