Harnessing the potential power of social media, tens of thousands of disgruntled
Israeli consumers have taken to Facebook to protest the rising price of one of
the staples of the local diet – cottage cheese.
The campaign, which is
being run by a group called “Boycott Food Products,” calls on consumers to
refrain from purchasing cottage cheese produced by Israeli manufacturers Tnuva,
Strauss and Tara during the entire month of July.
The page explains, “It
just can’t be that the price of a product manufactured in Israel by an Israeli
company could rise to x [amount of shekels], when we see the exact same products
[manufactured by the same Israeli companies] being sold in Europe and the United
States at a cost of around 50 percent less... There is no reason to screw us out
of all proportions.”
The average container of cottage cheese today costs
Despite consumer complaints, the government is planning to discuss
the removal of certain pricing caps, which could have the effect of driving
costs further upwards, Army Radio reported Wednesday.
Itzik Elrov, who
began the Facebook campaign, told Globes that cottage cheese was chosen for the
protest because “it is a symbol,” but said that consumer protests would spread
to other food products later on.
“[Boycotting] dairy products is a strong
blow, because their expiration dates are short, and this will put more pressure
on the companies.
They can absorb the cost if we don’t buy olives for two
months, but they can’t allow themselves [that same luxury] with dairy
More than 50,000 people had backed the campaign by late
Wednesday night, and that number appeared to be growing rapidly.
the campaign has already reached the halls of power, with Prime Minister
Binyamin Netanyhau receiving a tub of cottage cheese from opposition MK Ronit
Tirosh (Kadima) at a special Knesset session yesterday.
had organized the session to bring attention to what they called “the failure of
the Netanyahu government in political, economic and social sectors.”
course, how much of an effect the online campaign has in practice remains to be
seen come July, although Israeli Consumer Council CEO Ehud Peleg said that the
growing groundswell of consumer anger was already working, and could be seen by
the fact that businesses and chain stores are offering more discounts and deals
“All the years it has been said a lot that the consumer does
not need to sit idly while businesses try to take advantage of them, or ask ofthem to pay excessive costs for their products,” Peleg told The Jerusalem
“Consumers need to use the weapon they have, which is free will -
whether to buy the product or not. In this way they can force the levers of
demand and supply to their advantage, and to broadcast to business owners,
‘bring down prices or find yourselves new buyers.’ “If they keep cottage cheese
on the shelves, they will have to go to the bank with that cottage cheese and
not with the money of consumers.”
Peleg added: “This is not just the
consumer’s fight. This is a fight over the norms in the State of Israel... and
over the values of fairness and consideration that we need in a Jewish and
Cottage cheese manufacturers had still not reacted
publicly to the campaign by press time.
May’s consumer price index was
published Wednesday evening, showing a 0.5 percent rise for the month and an
annualized inflation rate of 4.1 percent. Meanwhile, the price of a regular
container of Tnuva cottage cheese has risen by around 39 percent in the past
three years, while the price of milk has only risen by 3.8 percent in the same
period, The Marker revealed.
MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima), who chairs the
Knesset’s Agricultural Lobby, called on consumers to focus their fight against
what he called “the real guilty parties in this whole story” – the major
Cottage cheese products are “just one example of the
unacceptable profit margins taken by the big chain stores, who use their great
power to force excessive prices on the public, [including] among others, those
products that are so basic and essential to the poorer classes.”
Shelly Yacimovich (Labor), who sits on the Knesset Finance Committee, said the
blame for the high price lies mainly with the fuel tax, which added to transport
costs and “which most members of Knesset voted for.
“There is no escape
from a significant reduction in indirect taxes such as that on fuel,” she said.
“The call for a price reduction, disconnected from the reasons for the [price]
rise, will at the end of the day harm farmers, laborers and the weaker segments
of the food industry.”Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.