Apr 27, 2009 0:14 | Updated Apr 27, 2009 1:31
Here's a juicy story: Panic erupted over the weekend in Teheran after Iranian authorities were horrified to discover that citrus fruit being snatched up by buyers across the capital were marked as Israeli-grown Jaffa sweeties.
It was later discovered, however, that the "sweeties" were likely Chinese fruit fraudulently marketed as the prestigious Israeli product.
Two Iranian press agencies reported Sunday that citrus with stickers bearing the words "Jaffa sweetie Israel PO" had appeared in Teheran, but that the suspicious fruit had been packed in boxes that clearly said "Product of China."
Nevertheless, Teheran immediately responded to the "Zionist" infiltration.
According to Iran-based Press TV, Hossen Safaie, the head of the Fruit and Vegetable Distribution Center of Teheran, expressed his hope that the lawbreakers would be brought to justice and that "his organization will not allow those who want to make a profit ignore the Iranian citizens' religious and revolutionary learning."
Press TV also reported that Deputy Iranian Commerce Minister Mohammad Sadeq Mofatteh had offered a 1 trillion Iranian rial prize to anyone who could prove that his ministry had issued a permit for the import of the offensive fruit.
He added that "rogue elements" may have labeled the citrus as Israeli in order "to disgrace the ruling government."
Later in the day, after Israel denied lobbing any fruit in Teheran's direction, it emerged that the "made in China" stamp on the boxes was likely the more accurate label.
The Jaffa sweetie, a pomelo-grapefruit hybrid, is popular in world markets due to its taste, low seed count and easy-to-remove peel.
This is not the first time that Chinese producers have allegedly placed misleading labels on produce to make it more appealing to international buyers - although in this case, it may go down as the first marketing mistake to (almost) create a diplomatic dust-up.
In fact, Israeli fruit routinely makes its way to places where Israelis themselves fear to tread.
In recent years, apples grown by Druse farmers on the Golan Heights have made their way across the UN-run Kuneitra checkpoint and been sold in Syria and even Saudi Arabia, with the proceeds returning to the Golan agrarians.
And that is just the tip of the fruity iceberg.
According to Israel Fruit Growers' Association chairman Ilan Eshel, dozens of tons of fruit goes through the IDF crossings into the Gaza Strip every year. And Israeli-grown avocados, persimmons and bananas are routinely sold to buyers in Jordan, from where - stickers removed - they reach customers in Arab states, including the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Eshel remarked that occasionally the fruit (and yes, the avocado is a fruit) encounters resistance from anti-Israel elements, but buyers are more than willing to close the deals.
"I think that economics are stronger than animosity, and when people want necessary goods - or even goods a bit beyond the bare necessities - they discover that ideology is less of a factor," said Eshel.
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