6.53% hike in bread prices draws wide criticism

Price of government-supervised bread rises due to high fuel, wheat prices, gov't says; MKs from across political spectrum slam hike.

Halla, hallot 521 (photo credit: Amy Sprio )
Halla, hallot 521
(photo credit: Amy Sprio )
The price for a loaf of bread under government supervision is up 6.53 percent on Tuesday, following an order from the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry.
Standard 750-gram loaves of brown or white bread now cost NIS 5.24; a 500-gram halla costs NIS 5.72; a 750- gram loaf of sliced brown bread costs NIS 7.87; and a 500-gram loaf of sliced white bread costs NIS 6.99.
“The price hike was caused by the sharp rise in the global price of wheat in the past month, which inflated the price of flour, a key component in the price of bread,” the ministry explained. It added that the recent increase in global fuel prices also contributed to the decision to increase the price of bread for the first time in 18 months.
Lawmakers from the coalition and the opposition reacted swiftly and angrily to the announcement.
MK Moshe Matalon (Yisrael Beytenu) called on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to overrule the order.
He said the government should reduce value-added tax on basic products in order to avoid harming the middle class and the poor, and increase state revenues through an “all-out war” against the black market.
MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) said the government had proved over and over again that it excelled at harming the poor, by using the topic of a possible war with Iran to bury discussion of social issues.
“Bread is a basic product that every family in Israel needs, and it would be fitting if at least this one product did not become more expensive,” Molla said. “But as is usually the case with Netanyahu, the dogs bark but the caravan moves on.”
Fellow Kadima MK Yoel Hasson was equally critical, saying the government had decided to bring to reality the line from Genesis, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat bread.”
“With the Israeli public still suffering from the latest economic directives issued from Netanyahu and Steinitz’s place of learning, the government has issued another blow to the lower class by forcing them to pay more for a basic product,” Hasson said. “This again shows how much this government and the man who stands at its head has failed in everything related to economic management in the past three-and-a-half years.”
MK Amir Peretz (Labor) said the prime minister must stop hiding behind slogans and issue a directive to prevent the price increase, “which sprinkles salt on the open and painful wounds of the middle and lower classes.”
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) called it an “unprecedented blow” to the weaker segments of society, saying that not only are they incapable of making it through the month, “they are not even managing to begin it.”
He suggested that instead of taking from those “who have nothing,” the “tycoons” must be made to pay the millions of shekels they owe the state.
Itzik Elrov, the Bnei Brak man who led a mass consumer protest over the price of cottage cheese last year, accused the government of failing “on an almost criminal scale” to protect consumer interests.
Consumer rights are evidently not at the top of its priorities, Elrov said. “Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon worried about manufacturers and traders, when at the bottom of the value chain sit millions of citizens who pay the price.
The ministry apparently believes that consumer’s pockets are ownerless.”
He added, “For a whole year millions of citizens have reduced their purchases because of outrageous prices, and despite this nothing has been done to bring down the cost of living. The public is losing its faith in the system.”
Social justice protesters reacted with anger to news of the price hike, with University of Haifa Prof. Yossi Yona, saying it showed “there is no limit to the obtuseness of the Netanyahu government.”
Yona, who served on a team of experts working with social justice activists, said, “The prime minister is sticking to his position that the public will pay the price for his failed economic policies, in particular the weakest segments of society.”
Made up of a group of activists, the Social Justice Forum said on Monday that the price hikes showed that “as a preparation for war, Netanyahu’s government is striking a merciless blow to Israeli society. The government of Israel has chosen the best way to prepare the people of Israel for the possible outbreak of a war, through largescale cuts, and through making a large portion of the public become impoverished.”
Ben Hartman contributed to this article.