SA TRADE WITH IS­RAEL MAINLY AGRI­CUL­TURAL

CityPress - - Business - DE­WALD VAN RENS­BURG de­wald.vrens­burg@city­press.co.za

As the death toll mounts in Gaza, cam­paigns for the eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal iso­la­tion of Is­rael are grow­ing, with new calls to boy­cott re­tail­ers stock­ing Is­raeli pro­duce.

How­ever, the eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship be­tween South Africa and Is­rael re­ally re­volves around in­ter­me­di­ate goods, mostly for agri­cul­ture.

This means most South African im­ports of Is­raeli goods are for use by South African com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing South African goods.

The South African wing of the Boy­cott, Di­vest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paign this week launched a new con­sumer cam­paign aimed squarely at Wool­worths and its sourc­ing of food from Is­rael.

“We’re un­der no il­lu­sion that the boy­cott of Wool­worths will lead to the eco­nomic iso­la­tion of Is­rael,” said BDS spokesper­son Muhammed De­sai.

Con­sumer boy­cotts have to be part of a bou­quet of mea­sures, he added.

South Africa’s ma­jor ex­port to Is­rael is di­a­monds and, ac­cord­ing to De­sai, stop­ping the ex­ports of largely un­worked gems sits well with the ben­e­fi­ci­a­tion agenda any­way.

Ul­ti­mately, South Africa’s trade with Is­rael makes a very small con­tri­bu­tion to the Is­raeli econ­omy, said De­sai.

“Even get­ting Wool­worths to stop stock­ing Is­raeli goods would send a mes­sage to other re­tail­ers, do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional.”

Is­rael’s deputy am­bas­sador in South Africa, Michael Free­man, de­scribed the BDS cam­paign as “ex­trem­ist”, but also hyp­o­crit­i­cal and es­sen­tially hope­less.

Ac­cord­ing to Free­man, the cam­paign af­fects cu­cum­bers at Wool­worths (in­ci­den­tally, Wool­worths con­firmed to City Press that it does not sell Is­raeli cu­cum­bers), but ig­nores the in­di­rect trade with Is­rael.

A sin­cere boy­cott would in­volve a cat­a­strophic with­drawal from the world, he ar­gued.

Is­rael hosts the ma­jor man­u­fac­tur­ing site for mi­cro­pro­ces­sor gi­ant In­tel. “I doubt you’ll find a com­puter with­out In­tel chips from Is­rael,” said Free­man.

Ma­jor tech­nol­ogy multi­na­tion­als like Google, Mi­crosoft and Ap­ple pro­duce a fair amount of their prod­ucts and soft­ware in the coun­try as well, he added.

More di­rectly, Is­raeli in­puts un­der­pin a very large part of south Africa’s agri­cul­tural sec­tor.

The sig­nif­i­cant farm­ing-re­lated im­ports mir­ror the two ma­jor Is­raeli com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in South Africa’s agri­cul­ture sec­tor pointed out by Free­man.

Hishtil SA is based in Mooketsi, Lim­popo, where it pro­duces seedlings and has a part­ner­ship with the coun­try’s largest tomato pro­ducer, ZZ2.

It also pro­vides seedlings from Riebeek West in the Western Cape.

ZZ2 re­port­edly pro­duces 38% of South Africa’s toma­toes and a grow­ing share of its av­o­ca­dos, but Is­raeli seedlings ac­count for more than half of the South African tomato crop, ac­cord­ing to Free­man.

“If BDS wants to boy­cott Is­rael, it should aban­don toma­toes,” he told City Press.

Another Is­raeli firm in South Africa is Netafim, which pro­duces ir­ri­ga­tion equip­ment for farm­ers. Netafim’s lo­cal sub­sidiary is based in Kraai­fontein in the Western Cape.

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