Israeli supermarkets could turn to Greece for imports as relations with Turkey sour


With diplomatic relations between Israel and Turkey breaking down in response to Recep Tayyip Erdogan's inflammatory statements, major Israeli retail businesses, especially supermarket chains, have decided to stop importing from Turkey, and thus there are opportunities for Greece.

At a time when Israel's military operation in Gaza continues, there is pressure, mainly from agricultural cooperatives, to prioritise and boost Israeli production. The decision of the business sectors to stop imports was taken.

It is remembered that before the start of the war, started by a brutal Hamas attack on southern Israel last month, moves had been made to realign relations with Ankara with commitments to implementing economic agreements.

The facts, however, have changed drastically as Cobi Bitton, director of the Israel-Greece Chamber of Commerce, confirms to Proto Thema.

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The director of the Israel-Greece chamber, Cobi Bitton.

Israel's biggest food importers, including CEOs of supermarket chains Shufersal, Rami Levy, Victory and Yochananof, have decided to stop bringing in goods from Turkey following provocative statements by Erdogan, who is also refusing to name Hamas a terrorist organisation and is trying to rally the Middle East against the Jewish state.

In the wake of strained bilateral relations, even smaller importers have suspended all orders from Turkey.

Turkey has developed into a major exporting power to Israel in recent years; last year, it became the fifth-largest exporter to the country. Total exports from Turkey to Israel exceeded $7 billion, a spectacular increase compared to 2019, when exports from Turkey to Israel were about $4 billion.

According to Cobi Bitton, the current situation is a shock, and he assesses that there will be a big brake on imports from Turkey to Israel and that his country will look for direct and competitive alternatives in EU markets, including Greece.

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The sign of the most central shop in Tel Aviv that sells sharwarma. It used to say "Shawarma Turkit"

The Greek industry offers much to Israeli importers, including dry and frozen foods, fruits and vegetables, pasta, fish products, bakery products, spices, etc. It is worth emphasising the importance of Kosher certification as with it, exports to Israel and especially to large supermarket chains are possible.

Additional pressure comes from Israel's grower cooperatives that require products to be labelled with their origin. A typical example is the import of tomatoes from Turkey, which stopped entirely at the time of writing.

As it seems, traders have realised that tomatoes from Turkey have now become personae non-grata in the eyes of Israeli consumers. As a result, most have declared that they are stopping imports from Turkey.

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This photo is circulating everywhere and was taken by the Israel Farmers Union - It says 'product of Turkey? WE'RE NOT BUYING!”

Also, an absolute cessation of tomato imports from Turkey will create a shortage since domestic production can only cover 50% of consumption.

Thus, if imports from Turkey stop completely, it will be necessary to import from another country, such as Greece or the Netherlands, where the price may increase.

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Since the beginning of the crisis in Israel-Turkey relations, the Israel-Greece Chamber of Commerce has received loads of requests from different sectors to import from Greece items such as vegetables, fruits, pasta, bakery items, raw materials for the food industry, cleaning products, hygiene, disposable utensils but also more specialised products.

As long as the war continues and if it expands, Israeli importers will turn to new markets and, having no choice, will pay more, which will raise prices for the consumer.

"The ingenuity of Israeli businessmen, even in this case, will find a way to overcome the temporary discomfort, but in the case of Israel-Turkey relations where, it seems that the damage is great, real, and will remain for a long time," the president of the Israel-Greece chamber.

"This is a first-class opportunity for producers and distributors from Greece to fill the gap, not as a 'short-term' solution, but as a strategic response", he added.

READ MORE: Mitsotakis: The Cyprus issue is a national priority.

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