Cotton is a staple of the Israeli diet, but its use has declined dramatically over the past decades due to a lack of pesticides.
According to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, there are only about 2,000 tons of cotton in the world.
The World Bank estimates that there are less than 1,000 acres of cultivated land in the country, and farmers are struggling to make ends meet.
The country relies on foreign markets for cotton, and exports about $4 billion worth of it every year.
But the amount of agricultural produce grown in the area is dwindling, and the farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to feed their families.
“We are facing the possibility of a humanitarian disaster,” said Tzvi Nave, a professor of agricultural sciences at the Hebrew university and one of the leading experts on the issue.
“The situation in the arid land of the Negev is particularly acute.”
The number of cotton fields in the Neuila region, located just north of Tel Aviv, has fallen by more than 80 percent since the late 1980s, according to the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture.
The region, home to some of the world’s largest cotton producers, is the poorest in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
The decline has forced farmers to turn to growing their own crops, which have become increasingly expensive.
As the country struggles to provide adequate food for its people, many farmers are turning to the black market.
While Israeli authorities have cracked down on the illegal cotton trade, black markets are flourishing.
There are nearly 2,500 cotton growers in the United States alone, according the United Nations, and thousands of them rely on the black markets to buy the crop.
Some of the black-marketeers have also opened their own markets in Israel.
One of the most notorious of them is the Hiddush family, a group of former members of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the Shin Beiten (Israel Police) who were caught in 2010 and arrested for selling illegally imported cotton.
The Hidduns were also caught in 2013 selling hundreds of pounds of black-and-white Israeli cotton.
“Our cotton is smuggled into Israel through the Black Market and smuggled to the West Bank,” said one of Hiddun’s leaders, Yehuda, who declined to give his last name.
“They want to sell it to the American and European markets, but we don’t have a chance.”
While Israeli law prohibits the black economy, many Israeli farmers are also using black-markets to make their own cash payments.
One Israeli farmer told Haaretz that he was able to earn a small income from his cotton in some of Israel’s black markets, and he said that most of his sales were done through his family.
“In some of our markets, the sale of the cotton is not even paid for,” said the farmer, who asked that his last names not be published.
“There is no way to buy our cotton in Israel, because the price is too high.”
The situation in many of the areas where farmers are trying to sell their cotton is dire.
In the Neugebauer Valley, for example, the area’s cotton production has plummeted by nearly 50 percent over the last decade.
The average income of a cotton farmer is only $6,000 a year, and many farmers cannot afford to buy their produce at a market in Israel that is already overburdened with the cost of running a market, according a recent report by the Israel Labor Party.
In fact, a recent survey by the Israeli NGO Gidon found that 40 percent of all Israeli farmers were out of work, and that they are being paid less than half the average Israeli salary.
In one of Tel Yavne, an Israeli town near Haifa that is home to a major Jewish settlement, farmers have been forced to sell the land for scrap metal.
“I am a farmer who has to pay taxes to the government,” said Shlomo, the owner of the Yavnerei cotton farm.
“If we don, I can’t live on the land.”
The price of a kilogram of cotton can run as high as $400 in the black world, but it costs a little less to sell at a local market.
“A kilogram is worth half a cent in the American market,” said a farmer whose business was cut off last year.
“You have to go through a lot of trouble to get a kilo.”
Many farmers are willing to sell cotton for as little as a few cents a kilowatt-hour, but that’s not always the case.
“It is not uncommon for a farmer to make $500 per kilowatts,” said Yehudit, the Israeli farmer who lives in the Yarmuk settlement in the northern Negebauer valley.
“He can make as much as $1,000 per kilogram.”
As farmers struggle to make money, there is also a growing awareness among the Israeli public that cotton is the key ingredient in a new crop. In