The Ministry of Agriculture is today (Thursday, 23.5.2019) convening a “round table" with representatives from the ministry and other stakeholders including the Ministry of Environmental Protection, environmental organizations, and consumer organizations, to present the changes that have been made in the process for supporting marketing of packaged agricultural produce which the Ministry will soon be issuing.

The Ministry of Agriculture is today, Thursday (23.5), convening a “round table" with representatives from the ministry and some 30 other stakeholders attending, focusing on reducing fruit and vegetable food waste. The representatives will be from the Ministry of Environmental Protection, environmental organizations, members of academia, private companies and consumer organizations. The meeting is intended to introduce the changes which have been included in the procedure for supporting the marketing of packaged agricultural produce, following the public’s comments. At the end of the presentation, and as part of the public engagement process, an open debate will be held to hear further comments and suggestions ahead of issuing the updated public appeal. 

In late February, the Ministry of Agriculture published a draft procedure for supporting the marketing of packaged agricultural produce in an effort to reduce food losses. In the procedure, the ministry sought to encourage the supermarket chains to switch to selling fruit and vegetables packed in “smart” packages, which extend shelf life in the retail segment and at the consumer home. 

The Ministry invited the public to provide their comments on this issue and allowed time until mid-March, as part of a public engagement process. A professional team examined all the comments received from the various entities, held internal discussions, and even met with stakeholders on this issue. The ministry received thousands of responses from private citizens, environmental organizations, growers’ organizations, farmers, retail chains and others. Each response was given careful attention. 

The comments received focused on four main issues: the environmental aspect of the move, its impact on the cost of living, its potential effect on reducing food waste and the agricultural aspect. 

After a thorough review and examination of the public’s responses to the procedure, the ministry prepared its responses and conclusions and will be presenting them to the stakeholders as part of an open debate to hear further suggestions and comments.

Professional aspects
The question of supportThe pilot will be framed as an "initiative for evaluating means and technologies for prolonging the shelf life of fresh agricultural produce". For the pilot, various methods will be supported as suggested by the retail chains for this purpose
Package sizeA retail chain which will suggest using packages will be required to evaluate the use of two different size packages with a significant difference in their weight, to enable purchasing according to the needs of the individual households and in order to avoid a situation where the consumers will be compelled to buy more than they need.
Package types

A parameter of the package types will be added, according to which many points will be added to chains which will suggest using multi-use packaging, which will be collected for re-use at the outlets in exchange for a deposit fee.

Furthermore, support will not be possible for packages made of non-recyclable materials.

The product list Narrowing the list of supported products to greenhouse tomatoes and cucumbers. These are two products where the waste and food loss are the highest.
Technical aspects
Pilot durationThe pilot will be shortened to two years and will allow for an exit point after one year.
Environmental impact assessmentA substantial and cardinal change in the updated wording of the procedure: as part of the pilot, an estimate will be made of the increase in environmental damage (LCA) and an End of Life estimate for all the product types taking part in the project.
Number of branches The number of branches where the pilot will be run will be reduced. Each retail chain submitting its proposal will specify five pairs of branches where the pilot will take place. At each pair of branches, one branch will be allocated to sell packaged produce only, while the second will serve as a control, where the produce will be laid out out for sale as it is done today.

As a rule, food loss is a problem with far-reaching economic, social and environmental implications. It is a dominant factor in the cost of living issue. From data collected at the ministry, it appears that about half of all fruit and vegetables end up in the trash bin in the production, sorting, storage, marketing and consumption processes. Data presented by the National Insurance Institute from recent years it transpires that each year an average Israeli family throws away some NIS 4,200 in uneaten food. Surveys carried out in recent years by international organizations have indicated that about a third to half of all the food produced worldwide is lost in the production process and along the supply chain and the consumption chain, and does not get used for human consumption. The food waste in fruit and vegetables is about 45% to 55%, primarily in two food crops - tomatoes and cucumbers - where the percentage of waste is higher than other crops.

Zippi Sabag Friedkin, Market Research Manager at the Ministry of Agriculture: "The procedure is intended to reduce the waste percentages in fruit and vegetables at the retail chains and food loss in the consumer home. The Ministry of Agriculture considers its contact with the public to be of the highest importance. It is based on transparency, inclusion and joint calibration of the goals and means for execution. The publication of the procedure for public comments has enlightened us as to numerous issues; we are very pleased with the process. The Ministry's professional team has kept an open mind to all of the public's comments. It has investigated each contact thoroughly, and we have indeed included many important comments in our work".