Palestine Jan 2013 : Mehadrin: New evidence of mislabelled settlement produce
January 22, 2013 A coalition of civil society groups have called for an international day of action against Israeli agricultural companies on February 9th in line with the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israeli militarism, apartheid and colonisation. Corporate Watch researchers are in Palestine collecting new information and, over the coming weeks, Corporate Watch will be writing a series of articles and blogs examining Israeli agricultural exports.
Two and a half years ago, Corporate Watch researchers visited the illegal Israeli settlement of Beqaot in the Jordan Valley, where we found packing houses belonging to the agricultural exporter Mehadrin Tnuport Export Company (MTEX). The produce being prepared for export was mislabelled as produce of Israel, despite it being from the occupied West Bank.
As we exposed at the time, Mehadrin produce is sold through Tesco stores in the UK. Last week we made another visit to the settlement to find out whether recent developments in UK and Israel have had an effect on the conduct of the company.
Over the last two years, two significant changes affecting Israeli agricultural exports have occurred: the collapse and formal liquidation of Israels national fruit and vegetable exporter Carmel Agrexco, and the decision of the UK supermarket Co-op to stop dealing with Israeli companies that operate in illegal settlements, including Mehadrin. The Co-op also stopped trading with Agrexco, Arava Export Growers and Adafresh.
While the liquidation of Agrexco was a big success for the BDS movement, it has meant that the export market for Israeli produce has opened up to competition and, so far, it appears that Mehadrin, one of Agrexcos main competitors, has benefited the most.
The companys 2011 annual report stated that Mehadrin expected to expand and confirmed that it had signed contracts with some of Agrexcos citrus, avocado, persimmon and date growers. In August 2012, it was reported in the agricultural trade press that Mehadrin is now the biggest Israeli exporter of Medjoul dates, a growing market in the UK, particularly over the Christmas and Ramadan periods.
A visit to Beqaot quickly showed that Mehadrin is still deliberately mislabelling the produce exported from there. The building storing Mehadrin packaging was filled to the roof with boxes stating that the content was the produce of Israel instead of the West Bank. This was also the case for STM ltd, an agricultural exporter partly owned by Mehadrin.
According to Mehadrin's website, the company has developed one of the worlds most advanced traceability systems which provides for transparency and accountability. Evidence from the ground shows that the opposite is true.
Mehadrins packing boxes in Beqaot were labelled as coming from Beerot Yitzhaq, a small religious kibbutz near the Gaza border.
When the Co-op adopted its policy of not working with companies which operate in the settlement in April 2012, it stressed that this move does not constitute a boycott of Israeli goods but that its contracts will go to other companies inside Israel that can guarantee they dont export from illegal settlements.
At the moment, there appears to be no way of guaranteeing this, as there is evidence of mislabelling of agricultural goods in all bigger settlements in the occupied Jordan Valley, and it is likely that the produce gets moved from growers in the valley to packing houses inside Israel. As a result, the only way forward is a full boycott of all Israeli agricultural goods.
According to DEFRA's advice regarding the labelling of settlement produce, published in December 2009, the Government considers that traders would be misleading consumers, and would therefore almost be certainly committing an offence, if they were to declare produce from the OPT (including from the West Bank) as Produce of Israel .
The mislabelling issue should also be a concern for stores such as Tesco. The chain still trades with Mehadrin and is, according to recent email confirmation, the sole stockist of the companys Jaffa brand in the UK. Tesco has not adopted a policy of not selling settlement goods yet and, by ignoring the deceptive behaviour of companies it works with, it is complicit in their offences.
As Mehadrins export sales are growing, now is the time for an international boycott effort.
Mehadrin operates in numerous countries. A full list of contacts can be found on the company's website, www.mehadrin.co.il.
Mehadrins contact address in the UK is:
Handelscentrum ZHZ 40C
2991 LD Barendrecht
Phone: +31 (0)180 642 570
Fax: +31 (0)180 642 571
696 chemin du Barret
Tel: +33 (0)4 32 60 62 90
Fax: +33 (0)4 90 24 82 54
Mehadrin Tnuport Scandinavia AB
Västra Hamngatan 13 A
411 17 Göteborg
Phone +46 (0)31 134932
Fax +46 (0)31 135764
e-mail (first name)@mtscand.com
Mehadrin Central Europe:
Mehadrin Central Europe
Phone: +41 (0) 62 207 54 54
Fax: +41 (0) 62 207 54 61
955 East Hazelwood Avenue,
Rahway, New Jersey 07065
Previous Corporate Watch article on Mehadrin: