Twenty moshavim from the center and south of the country have decided to form an action committee to lobby among Tnuva member-owners to speed up the liberalization of Israel's
leading dairy producer.
Pro-liberalization moshavnik Amir Ritov and his group want to be able to sell their stock in Tnuva for full value on the free market. The stock currently may only be sold to other member-organizations within the cooperative for a, naturally, much lower price.
Ritov, of Moshav Heirut, and others like him retain stock in Tnuva despite having closed any dairy production activity on their moshavim years ago, creating differences of interest between them and the cooperative's current dairy producers.
"A group of dairy farmers with personal interests are lodging sticks in the gears of the privatization and causing great economic damage for tens of thousands of moshav and kibbutz members," Ritov said.
"The privatization is expected to bring in significant amounts [of money] to each stockholder of Tnuva, and for some of the [agricultural] settlements experiencing economic difficulty this is [like] air for breathing. Tnuva is the pension plan for many members who have worked their whole lives and now have no source of income besides National Insurance allowances," he said.
Ritov and the action committee intend to take their campaign on the road, to convince other moshavim and kibbutzim to join their push for the liberalization.
"We want the Tnuva management to carry out its decisions [to privatize and issue stock], and if there were not decisions, then we should assemble and continue toward a situation in which Tnuva moshavniks know the value of their stakes," he said.
Ritov's initiative follows recent moves on the part of a group of 10 other moshavim to escalate internal opposition to the cooperative's management - and against Tnuva CEO Arik Raichman personally - in the context of plans to liberalize the cooperative and issue its stock for trading on the stock exchange.
Those 10 moshavim - primarily dairy suppliers themselves - oppose the IPO, arguing that Tnuva was created purely to market their produce, not to serve the interests of unrelated stockholders.
They also claimed that the decisions to privatize Tnuva and issue its stock were not made by the member-farmers themselves - the actual owners of the cooperative - but unilaterally by Raichman, whose management abilities they have attacked.
Ritov said Raichman is a good manager, and accused the anti-IPO moshavim of pursuing personal attacks only in order to stall Tnuva's liberalization.
"Even if the management were not good, I am not certain that now is the moment to attack it and call for a change of management, at a time when we want to move towards privatizing Tnuva, and must unite," he said.
Anti-IPO moshavnik and dairy farmer Ziv Matalon stressed that the two camps are not so divided.
"We are for liberalization, and realize that there must be changes, but are against issuing the stock," he said.