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Page last updated at 15:05 GMT, Sunday, 26 April 2009 16:05 UK

'Israeli oranges' faked in China

By Andre Vornic
BBC News

One of the oranges allegedly found in Iran (photo from the Iranian news agency Mehr)
Photos from Tehran showed fruit marked "Israel"

A twist has emerged in the story of Israeli citrus fruit reportedly sold in Iran in defiance of a ban on commercial dealings between the two enemy states.

It has now been revealed the fruit, a type of orange-grapefruit hybrid marketed as Jaffa Sweetie, were not Israeli in the first place.

The Sweeties were brought to Iran from China, where faking the origin of goods is a common practice.

The discovery of apparent Israeli origin caused a stir in Iran.

Outrage followed, distribution centres stocking the fruit were sealed and accusations were traded.

Such is the infamy of dealing with Israel that an Iranian official went so far as to accuse the opposition of a "citrus plot".

However, Tal Amit, the general manager of Israel's Citrus Marketing Board, told the BBC the fruit had not originated in his country.

Prestigious fruit

"First of all, it's a bit annoying that somebody is using our brand name and registered trademark without our permission," he said.

Chinese boxes allegedly containing Israeli oranges found in Iran (photo from the Iranian news agency Mehr)
The fruit was packed in boxes marked "Origin China"

"Apart from this, I would like very much the Iranian people to eat Israeli fruit straight from the origin and not via China.

"But the politics is not allowing us to do any commercial relations with Tehran at the moment while back 30 to 40 years ago, Tehran was a superb market for our fruit."

The genuine Israeli Sweetie is primarily exported to the Far East's richest markets, Japan and South Korea.

That could explain the prestige of the fruit in the eyes of Chinese exporters and the temptation to counterfeit it.

It is not the first time, however, that citrus fruit have found themselves at the heart of an international political row.

Back in the 1980s, as the most visible of South Africa's consumer exports, oranges became the key target of anti-Apartheid boycott campaigns.



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