Unique and tough year for the carrot sector in Israel

A strong local currency, almost no opportunities to export to Europe and the war that hit Russia’s main export market, sharp increases in shipping and input costs all contributed to the toughest year for the carrot sector in Israel. “This year is one of the toughest years ever for the Israeli carrot sector. Agricultural and horticultural exports in general are struggling worldwide, but when you have products like carrots and potatoes, you suffer even more because of the small margins,” says Amir Potat, CEO of Gezer Shluhot. Founded in 1949, they are organic and conventional carrot growers and exporters and are considered the pioneers of this sector in Israel.

Photo taken by Amir Potati

“The shekel (Israeli currency) is too strong. Everything that is exported, from high-tech to low-tech, suffers. With perishable products, the more basic, the more you suffer. In the root sector, we have small margins. The local currency is much too strong for us, we also had a dormant year for the fields, which allowed us to plant or cultivate less than in a normal year, which affected the local market, which dropped 20-25%, as the Israeli market had to import from other countries The local market was damaged, all costs increased dramatically, production now costs between 25-30% more per year, which is true for growers worldwide, but it is very dramatic all in 1 year. In logistics, costs were even higher, last season, for example, a container to the US cost $3,000, now it has risen to $10,000 to $12,000,” explains Porat.

Amir Porat, CEO of Gezer Shluhot

Porat says Israel has exported about 80,000 tons of carrots. His company Gezer Shluhot, located in the Bet Shean Valley in northern Israel, exported about 24,000 tons of carrots, mainly to Russia. They also exported to Europe and the US and are known for their high quality produce and sweeter carrots grown in the heavy soil of northern Israel. “Every shipment presented challenges while the market was generally bad,” says Porat.

“In our export market in Europe, there were higher yields and maybe a record season. They didn’t need much support from imports during their season. The Russian market was left to us, it was sudden, but they still took 50% of our total exports The season is now over and in the end we were able to export almost the planned amount. Every week it was a struggle to find out the new restrictions, what will be the new rules, there were many changes to the shipping companies, customers canceled their orders, etc. . We were also afraid that in some cases the remittance would be compromised. Because it was about food, we could gradually continue exporting to the Russian and Ukrainian markets. We didn’t have to stop , we exported to everyone who needed food, even though there was a lot of uncertainty, we made it happen,” Porat said.

“In June and July, the market worsened in Russia, while it usually gets stronger. The local season in Belarus and Russia started in mid-July. All in all, it was a very challenging season. It was the perfect storm. At the end, we almost 100% of the planned quantity exported. During the season we had to adapt, remain flexible. We combined that with a great effort and good will between us and our customers to keep supporting each other. Our customers have supported us for many years it was a combination of both sides, sometimes having to compromise on size and price. Our customers support us and we support them. Our relationship with our customers is our priority and we do everything to provide them the best quality. We will continue with that,” says Porat.

Price organic carrots worrying
“Organic carrots suffered badly because of the bad market. We keep organic in our range, but we reduce it drastically. It costs 25% more to grow, while the market can’t afford more. We send the best quality to Germany, which is the main market for organic carrots, but it was not enough in such a tough market, we went there personally to meet our customers, but it is very sad to look at the numbers and conclude that organic is not working. We are watching the opportunities in market, but we cannot deliver at a loss It’s a shame, because we have developed our knowledge of growing high-quality organic products for many years. Unfortunately, we have had to reduce that production every year. We now want to focus mainly on the conventional purple, yellow and white carrots.”

Porat says they also see great opportunity and growth in ready-to-eat, premium baby carrots, which they supply to a major global fast food chain in Israel and to schools. “Baby carrots are a completely different variety. They are longer, sweeter and crispier and can be cut into pieces to make them ready to eat. They are also difficult to grow, but it is a growing product in our company. I want to export this for all markets,” concludes Porat.

For more information:
Amir Porati
Gezer Shluhot
Telephone: +972 52 545 0781

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