Settlement produce exporter Agrexco set for liquidation

The Israeli produce company Agrexco, which has been a key target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement in Europe, is set for liquidation, the Israeli business publication Globes reported Tuesday.

Agrexco, Israel’s largest fresh produce exporter, has come under pressure because the majority of its goods are grown in illegal Israeli settlements — though they are often misleadingly labeled as “product of Israel” in European supermarkets. The Israeli government also holds a 50 percent stake in the company.

As The Electronic Intifada reported earlier this summer, more than a hundred activists from nine countries convened for the first ever European Forum Against Agrexco. Stephanie Westbrook reported for EI:

From 4-5 June, delegates from Italy, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Palestine joined the French organizers for two full days of workshops aimed at strengthening the boycott campaign against the Israeli agricultural export giant.

The liquidation of Agrexco can be seen as a major victory of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which is making it increasingly undesirable for multinational companies to be entangled in the Israeli occupation.

While certainly factors besides the mounting pressure on Agrexco from the BDS movement were at work here, the movement has made an impact on the Israeli economy.

Bloomberg News reported yesterday that Israeli stocks aren’t doing so well:

Israeli shares traded in New York are heading for their worst month on record on concern global economic growth is faltering and the Palestinian Authority’s quest for statehood may destabilize the country.

The Bloomberg Israel-US 25 Index of the largest Israeli companies that trade in the US retreated 0.2 percent to 85.48 yesterday, extending its August drop to 13 percent, the worst monthly performance in data going back to September 2005. SodaStream International Ltd., the maker of machines that carbonate water, led the gauge’s decline, falling 50 percent after its profit forecast trailed estimates. Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., the world’s largest maker of generic drugs, dropped 13 percent on concern new products won’t boost sales.

Yesterday, The Electronic Intifada reported that Sweden’s largest grocery chain, Coop, removed the popular Sodastream products from its shelves, as they are manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank:

The Israeli maker of home carbonation devices, Sodastream, took a direct hit when the Coop supermarket chain announced on 19 July that it would stop all purchases of its products due to the company’s activity in illegal Israeli settlements. This marked another important victory for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, as Sweden is Sodastream’s largest market, with an estimated one in five households owning a Sodastream product.

In her report for The Electronic Intifada, Stephanie Westbrook added:

In disclosing risk factors as required in SEC filings, Sodastream listed both remaining in and transferring from Mishor Adumim as potential liabilities. The risks associated with staying include “negative publicity, primarily in Western Europe, against companies with facilities in the West Bank” and “consumer boycotts of Israeli products originating in the West Bank.”

Complying with international law and leaving the illegal settlement, on the other hand, would “limit certain tax benefits” enjoyed by companies in industrial parks in illegal settlements.

However, for more and more companies, those tax incentives fail to compensate for the negative publicity. On 19 July, the multinational corporation Unilever, after unsuccessfully attempting to sell its shares in the company, formally announced plans to move its Bagel and Bagel pretzel factory from the Barkan industrial zone in the Ariel settlement bloc to within the green line, Israel’s internationally-recognized armistice line with the occupied West Bank (“Bagel Bagel leaving territories,” 19 July 2011).

While governments continue to perpetuate the status quo of Israeli impunity, colonization and warfare, the BDS movement is effectively challenging business-as-usual with Israeli apartheid.



Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.