After finding a packinghouse bearing Edom UK signage inside the settlement of Tomer in the Jordan Valley a few weeks ago, we decided to look more closely into this joint Israeli and British company and their exports.
As mentioned in the previous report, the British company Valley Grown Salads own 20% of the shares in Edom UK, and since then we have found out that another British company, Glinwell PLC, own another 20%. 30% is owned by a company called Chosen Agricultural Products, which consists of farmers from Moshavs in the Arava region, and a further 30% by a company called Magnolia UK holdings.As Valley Grown Salads say that their produce comes from the Arava region inside Israel, we decided to try to find their packing house there.
Located close to the tiny agricultural moshav of Sapir, the Edom UK packinghouse is a new one. There is a plaque inside the building, donated by Valley Grown Salads and Glinwell PLC, presented to Edom UK at the opening of the packinghouse on the 26th of October 2009. From this location, where the produce come from the nearby Moshavs, they mainly export peppers, but according to one worker, also handle some cherry tomatoes. Confirmed destinations for produce from this location are Europe -including the UK- USA and Russia, with only 13% going to the local Israeli market. 87% of prooduce is reserved for the international market, particularly the UK. The Israeli workers in Sapir said that there are several smaller Edom UK packinghouses in other locations, which were used before the opening of this one and continue to operate now.
A large proportion of the workers at EDOM’s Sapir packing house are Thai migrant workers.
On a second visit to the packing house in Tomer, we found evidence that poses serious questions both about Edom’s business and UK imports of Israeli produce overall. As we knew from our interview with Palestinian workers on a previous visit (see http://corporateoccupation.wordpress.com/2010/03/25/uk-company-exporting-from-jordan-valley-settlements/ ) the Tomer packinghouse exports to France and the UK and, although we did not find any produce labelled clearly for a particular country, there were plenty of mislabelled boxes around. All the Edom UK boxes only had their head quarter address in Tel Aviv printed on them, as did all the Edom labels present in the packing house. These were exactly the same boxes which were found in the packinghouse in Sapir, inside Israel, making it impossible to distinguish between Israeli and settlement produce and hence strengthening the case for a full boycott rather than a boycott of the settlements.
Also present inside the premises were boxes and labels for Amit Agro-Fresh (sweet peppers), Kedem Hadeklaim (organic bell peppers), Gilad Produce Ltd (organic bell peppers) and Red Sea Organics. Inside the building, which bears a prominent EDOM sign, where workers were busy preparing produce for export, some boxes being filled were labelled with the Edom logo and some with the label of R.S.O Organic (Red Sea Organics). The R.S.O label, which was for boxes carrying cherry tomatoes, carried a logo of certification from Agrior, the Israeli certifier for organic produce and was accredited by IFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements. The labels also bear the emblem of the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture. They stated “PRODUCE OF ISRAEL” despite being grown and packaged in the occupied Jordan Valley. The Israeli Agrior are trusted by British, highly regarded, organic certifiers such as the Soil Association. The Soil Association list Agrior as one of the bodies which they have a subcontracted inspector agreement with, hence allowing them to “inspect to Soil Association Standards on behalf of Soil Association Certification Ltd”. In other words, whatever they say about a product will be accepted as fact and their classification will end up on labels in British shops. The Soil Association have previously confirmed that they rely on Agrior for their Israeli and West Bank produce. Whether or not these particular boxes were headed for Britain, it shows that Israeli companies and certification bodies can not be trusted to tell the truth about settlement produce.
Glinwell PLC, Smallford Nurseries, Hatfield Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL4 0HL. Phone 01727 822589
EDOM UK is now on Who Profits at the following link http://www.whoprofits.org/Company%20Info.php?id=864
For proof of Agrior’s Soil Association Status, see http://www.soilassociation.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=7Bzy9GirmJ0%3D&tabid=555