Amid shortages, PM authorizes emergency airlift of eggs ahead of Passover

Finance Ministry to subsidize effort to ensure public has supplies for holiday meal; 10 cargo planes to bring in 30 million eggs

An Israeli shops for groceries in Jerusalem on March 18, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
An Israeli shops for groceries in Jerusalem on March 18, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Israel will subsidize an emergency airlift of millions of eggs to the country ahead of the Passover festival that begins next week amid severe shortages due to coronavirus restrictions, the Prime Minister’s Office announced Friday.

“At the behest of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, the Finance and Agriculture ministries will subsidize the import of eggs via air from Europe to Israel,” the statement said.

The statement blamed the shortage on recent difficulties of importing eggs from Italy and Spain, two of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus. Israel is usually self-sufficient in eggs, but the most recent shortages have been blamed on panic buying and hoarding.

Channel 12 reported that 10 cargo planes will be used to bring in the eggs ahead of the Passover festival that starts April 8, noting that there is an estimated shortage of some 30 million eggs.

For the past two weeks, Israelis have reported widespread egg shortages throughout the country with many supermarkets out of them entirely while others only allowing  shoppers to purchase one or two dozen at a time or conditioning the sale on purchasing over NIS 150 in groceries.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews arrive to shop for food at a supermarket in the West Bank settlement of Beitar Illit on April 3, 2020. ( Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The TV reported that a thriving black market in eggs has developed, potentially creating additional health dangers.

Last Friday, Agriculture Minster Tzachi Hanegbi ordered an increase in imports from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Ukraine to re-stock the supply of Israel, which typically is able to suffice through local coops.

Officials then said the shortage was not caused by supply problems, but by panic buying.

An Agriculture Ministry official told the Ynet news site that shoppers were buying and hoarding several dozen eggs per person amid fears of further lockdowns, despite Netanyahu reiterating in recent weeks that even in such a scenario, Israelis will still be allowed to leave their homes to stock up on food and medicine.

Local chicken coops can usually supply the country with enough eggs and only now is the government being forced to rely more heavily on foreign imports.

The demand for eggs is also particularly high because the Passover holiday, where many make considerable use of eggs, particularly at the festive seder meal.

Many serve hard-boiled eggs in salt water at the meal and for others it is a key ingredient of matzah ball soup, another holiday favorite.

The Passover Seder plate, as shown in this March 8th, 2007 photo, is a special plate containing symbolic foods used by Jews during the Passover Seder. The items include (from top center): horseradish; a shank bone; a mixture of fruit, wine and nuts called haroset; lettuce, parsley and an egg. (AP Photo/Dan Goodman)

On social media, people complained about not getting any eggs in online orders and traded tips for egg substitutes. Others advised where eggs had been seen recently, but going from store to store is difficult with current restrictions on movement and travel.

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