At the end of a strenuous investigation, inspectors of the Central Unit for Enforcement and Investigations at the Ministry of Agriculture uncovered the smuggling of eggplant seeds bought in Egypt, valued at NIS 45 million.
The investigation revealed that the suspect, a resident of the Gaza Strip (with a valid entry permit into Israel), a man in his 50s, purchased the eggplant seeds in Egypt and received them through the Rafah Crossing. The suspect established business ties with a nursery in the south of Israel for the purpose of marketing the seeds. The investigation found that from late 2018 until early 2019 the suspect delivered 6 kg of seeds to the nursery owner. The nursery owner sprouted the seeds, produced eggplant seedlings and sold them to growers.
The investigation further revealed that about 30 growers received the seedlings, and as they grew and began to yield, the final product was differed so greatly from the regular eggplant, in both shape and color, that it was unworthy of marketing.
Legal proceedings were initiated against all the parties involved in the affair, including the nursery owners. In addition, the Ministry of Agriculture submitted a request to the Ministry of Defense to revoke the entry permit into Israel of the smuggler who is suspected of selling these seeds.
The eggplant industry in Israel is composed of about 250 growers, and covers an area of about 800 hectares. It should be noted that 10 grams of seed are sufficient to grow seedlings that can be planted on 0.10 hectares (producing about 7 tons of eggplant), so that the sowing potential following the eggplant scam is 60 hectares, which is equal, in terms of yields, to about 4,000 tons of eggplant.
The Ministry of Agriculture reiterates that any entry of vegetable products into Israel is liable to cause great damage to local agriculture, and may lead to diseases that do not exist in Israel. These diseases are capable of damaging local crops, causing irreparable damage and destroying entire agricultural sectors. According to law, and in order to prevent the passage of plant diseases between countries, there is a total prohibition on the entry of vegetable products through the border crossings into the territory of the State of Israel. Any transfer of agricultural produce into the State of Israel without the approval of the Plant Protection Services of the Ministry of Agriculture constitutes a criminal offense.