Dagon silos in Haifa Port. Tvuot's main entrance gate to Israel undergoes renovation / Israel Ports Company
The holidays that began for the better, with family meals, vacations and head cleaning, blur what awaits us after them - a dramatic increase in the prices of food products. The reasons are written on the wall hugely: inflation, the high interest rates that weigh on financing, and the weakening of the shekel. All of these are falling on us from above, whether because of a global economic climate, or because of the fault of legal legislation.
But all this is expected soon to be joined by another reason, particularly unnecessary and irritating, albeit also man-made, but especially left-handed: the supply of grains, which are used in animal feed and in the flour industry, is stuck because of many years of neglect, dreaminess and poor management, in the best Israeli tradition.
When we say "lack of animal food," we are not referring to the dog or cat in the house (their food prices have already risen dramatically), but to the price of milk, cheeses, delicacies and ice cream, eggs and all the products that contain them – because cows and chickens eat food that is mainly grain. The "price of flour" should not worry only Hannahle, a small baker, because if there are no wheat grains, flour cannot be grinded, and besides the shortage on the shelves, the price of bread, pastries, pasta and all dough products also soars.
Zvika (full name is on file), a truck driver from the Dagon silos, contacted us in despair and asked for help. He wrote that after transferring ownership of the silos to Millennium, he and his friends were abused, detained for hours there and not allowed to work.
"There are Italian strikes there. And it hurts us. We get stuck there for hours on end. We fail to transport the goods according to our commitment. Shtibel, who orders a ship, takes 35,000 tons and we have to transport them in a few days, to the station and to the warehouses, and we can't handle it, it takes weeks."
Wheat kernels. Millions are reportedly thrown away because of outdated infrastructure/ShutterStock
Millions go to the trash
Zvika continues to recount his claims: "As long as it stays there, they [the importers who employ the truck drivers. L.R.) pay fines and then the public pays more. In addition, we have a working hours limit. We lose our time, more than we work and exceed hours.
On Thursday I went in at 20am I left at one. I came back at one, and left at seven. Twice. Usually I can do three or even four scrolls. They are holding us hostage there. Do you want to check in? Cool. Wait. If not, drive away.
"It turns out that we don't make a profit. Instead of a day's work, we do barely half a day's work. If we were to do a direct unloading out of the port, it would be better than Dagon. Their whole upkeep is terrible. They make cosmetics. All equipment is old. You see the holes in the bins where the material comes down, the dust and the kernels fall to the sides, and we have to collect it. I feel sorry for the importers, they pay for millions for nothing."
Some background: The Dagon silos are the grain terminal of the State of Israel. It can be called the "granary of grain", or more accurately our "grain hotel", to which the grain grains, corn, soybeans, barley and sorghum are unloaded from the ships and delivered from it according to the instructions of the grain importers to trucks and train cars that transport them throughout the country. The process should be quick.
A ship arrives at the port, from which between 40,200 and 1975,75 tons of grain are pumped within a few hours, transferred to a conveyor belt, from there to one of <> temporary storage compartments - and within a day are supposed to reach the mixture mills or flour mills. Any delay in such a storage compartment costs importers a lot of money.
A source familiar with the details claims that the traffic jam in Dagon is not due to an Italian strike by Dagon workers, as Zvika claims, but rather for a good reason: Finally, the Israel Ports Company, IEC, decided to put its hand in its pocket and renew the old and faulty equipment of the silos. "The silos were inaugurated in <> and since then there has been no thorough renovation, only repairs here and there," the source told Walla.
"IEC leased them in such bad condition that at some point the silo collapsed. The controllers, the 'brains' that are supposed to operate it, are already <>-year-olds, and when they came together one after the other, with endless fires and malfunctions, there was no choice but to replace them, and that's what's happening now."
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Workers at the Dagon silos demonstrate against the high cost of living, a few months ago. A source familiar with the details claims that the problem is not in the labor relations in the silos, but in the renewal of the old equipment/Histadrut spokesperson
"For now, everything is stuck"
The source adds: "After years of neglect, ANI is investing tens of millions of shekels to restore the silo to normal order, and therefore it is operating at a volume of two-thirds of its maximum, which creates a traffic jam. You can liken it to a supermarket on a Friday, when the store is packed with shoppers, but only two cash registers are working, with extremely slow cashiers.
"There is a long-standing strategic failure here. If we had a few more Dagon silos like this near the ports, besides the one at Ashdod Port, which absorbs 25% of the grain, we could disperse the load, but there isn't. Open a conveyor belt in Ashdod to increase unloading capacity, but it's not enough. Building a new infrastructure from the ground up will take at least another ten years, and in the meantime everything is stuck."
If you thought that this folly was coming to an end, you were wrong. Ashdod Port, the one with the new conveyor belt, was now supposed to lend a shoulder and work around the clock to take the load off Dagon which is under renovation. But the exact opposite happened.
Three cranes for unloading grains are stationed in Ashdod. Two small and one large and extremely modern from Italy. The sophisticated Italian crane, for which Israeli citizens paid 10 million euros, has been down for a year, due to poor maintenance and lack of technical knowledge on how to operate it. On Friday two weeks ago, the upper arm of one of the two remaining cranes at Pier 21 collapsed, and according to the report, only miraculously no workers next to it were injured.
Ashdod Port. From three cranes, barely one emerges (the cranes in the picture have no connection to the content of the article)/Ashdod Port Spokesperson's Office
Miracles happen at Ashdod Port
It turns out that quite a few miracles happen at Ashdod port, because two days later, on Sunday, the transmission system of the last crane collapsed, the crane went up on a high-voltage line that feeds the entire platform, there was a large explosion and a short circuit, which somehow skipped the saws that unloaded the grains there.
After calming down from the joy that everyone survived the series of mishaps safe and sound, one can begin to get angry: because at this moment, it is impossible to unload grains at Ashdod Port, the Dagon silos work at half power, the truck drivers go crazy with nerves, importers pay thousands of shekels per ton for unnecessary storage - and only those who watch Haifa Port see a seemingly pastoral picture of dozens of ships anchored near the port gate, Grain ships are full of grain, which there is no way to unload.
Pinchas Sabah, owner of the Millennium Group, which operates the Dagon silos, tells Walla that the labor dispute at the silos ended long ago. "Everything is working normally, there are no delays and no problems."
The Department of Education said in response: "Recently, ANI has invested millions of shekels in rehabilitation and investments in the Haifa silo, in order to allow, first and foremost, safety for employees, alongside operational continuity. These investments are required in light of the enormous burden placed on the silo in recent years, when it was the only active silo.
"The two silos, in Ashdod and Haifa, are operated by concessionaires who are responsible for the day-to-day operation and providing the IEC with needs for required investments. Against this background, the timing of investments is routed by operators according to their ability, while maintaining the optimal level of operation. At Ashdod Port, the operation of the water line is done by the Ashdod Port Company and its employees."
The Ashdod Port Company said: "The unloading of grains at the port is carried out regularly."
The Grain Importers Associationchose not to comment.
- More on the subject:
- Cost of Living
- Haifa Port
- Ashdod Port
- Israel Ports Company