cottage cheese 311 R.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
The Facebook-inspired campaign against the rising price of cottage cheese
continued to gain steam Thursday, as Interior Minister Eli Yishai called on
Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to open a criminal investigation into claims
of price fixing.
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“It is worth checking if business leaders have been
conspiring behind the backs of ordinary citizens. It is inconceivable that young
couples would think twice before buying cheese for their children. It would be
worth carrying out a quick investigation into the matter,” Yishai wrote in a
letter to the attorney-general.
By Thursday afternoon, almost 70,000
Israeli consumers had backed a Facebook campaign launched two days earlier to
protest the rising price of cottage cheese – one of the staples of the local
diet. The campaign, which was initiated by Facebook user Itzik Elrov, calls on
consumers to refrain from purchasing cottage cheese produced by Israeli
manufacturers Tnuva, Strauss and Tara during the entire month of
“Cottage cheese, a product so basic, yet its cost has risen to
close to NIS 8. We won’t buy it for an entire month,” the page
The campaign continued against the backdrop of conflicting
While supermarkets were reporting a 25-50 percent increase
in cottage cheese sales due to bargain offers, an investigation by Globes found
that many retail chains were actually recording a fall in sales. The
investigation found that special offers such as “buy one, get one free” were
increasing quantities sold, but not turnover at the tills.
Minister Yuval Steinitz responded to the campaign late Wednesday, saying that so
long as there exist cartels and monopolies that prevent open competition, he has
no intention of approving lifting price controls on dairy
“There is a need to consider the importation of cheese and
dairy products. That is the best way to bring down prices,” Steinitz added. He
was speaking at a ceremony at Ariel University Center of Samaria, where he was
being honored for his role in helping Israel survive the global financial
Meanwhile, the Manufacturers Association Director of Economics
and Research Strategy, Daphna Nitzan-Aviram, said her organization did not take
seriously reports of price-fixing, and said that the rising global cost of raw
materials was behind the rising in-store price of food products, such as cottage
“It [the Facebook campaign] makes for nice headlines in the
newspaper, but at the end of the day, when companies’ costs rise over the
longterm, it is clear that they will hand over those costs to the consumer,”
Nitzan-Aviram said, listing water and gasoline as commodities that have become
more expensive. “In the end, it is obvious that nothing will be sold at a loss.
And there are no free meals when the costs go up.”
She made the comments
at a panel on the state of the economy hosted by The Jerusalem Post in Tel Aviv
Nitzan-Aviram also suggested that the same population
campaigning against rising prices might also “be harming itself,” given that
recent confirmation of a rise in the minimum wage – which recently rose from NIS
3,890 to NIS 4,100 a month, and is set to rise again in October – will “in the
end come back to the consumer” through higher prices.
Business Editor, Eran Bar-Tal, disagreed with Nitzan-Aviram in regard to
price-fixing, and called the behavior of big food manufacturers “general
“We checked this, and I know that the cost of
manufacturing cottage cheese is around 15% of its shelf price,” said Bar-Tal.
“The difference between the highest and the lowest prices is something like 10%.
What this says alone is that this is the behavior of cartels when it comes to
cottage cheese products, just as it is with food products in general.”
truly think that we haven’t addressed the problems of the retail market here in
Israel as we should. No government has had the desire to deal with these huge
companies,” he continued, adding that policy-makers looking to help the lower
strata of society should first address this issue, because welfare just “gives
these people money with which they purchase from cartels.”