Fruit stand.
Fruit stand.Israel news photo: Flash 90

The fate of Agrexco, the largest exporter of Israeli produce, may be decided in a Tel Aviv court Wednesday, as a two week extension on bankruptcy proceedings expires. The company has been in receivership for several months, but if new sources of funding are not secured by Wednesday's deadline, the company will be unable to pay growers for produce, and will essentially cease operations.

The company is currently being run by Dr. Shlomo Nass, a court-appoointed trustee, who has been trying to secure funding or buyers for the company. In an interview with a European publication last week, Nass said that at least 15 different groups approached him about either investing or acquiring Agrexco, with investors coming from both Israel and abroad.

“Agrexco represents a great opportunity for an investor to step in and take on a famous, strong name, that is already established with connections across the world,” Nass said. “What is important is that the new owner receives a clean company that can be taken on and very easily managed.”

One thing that could throw a monkey wrench into Nass's plans, though, is worker unrest, as Agrexco employees ponder their own fates and futures. On Monday, workers locked themselves inside the company's Tel Aviv headquarters, with other workers staging an angry demonstration outside. The workers were reacting to a request by Nass to the Tel Aviv District Court to fire 200 Agrexco workers. According to the Histadrut, the request came out of the blue, with Nass failing to inform workers of his intentions.

During Monday's demonstration, some 300 workers blocked Hashmonaim Street in central Tel Aviv, where Agrexco's headquarters are located. Police attempted to break up the protest and reopen the street; a Histadrut official said that at least one worker sustained injuries during a scuffle with police.

Histadrut chairman Ofer Eini said he understood the feelings of workers, who have complained that they were being ignored by the government and the receiver; workers believe that the receiver is attempting to undercut collective bargaining agreements made and fire workers summarily in order to make Agrexco more attractive to investors. A meeting was scheduled for late Tuesday between Agrexco officials and representatives of workers in order to try and iron out the differences between them, Eini said.