Dairy Board warns against Finance Ministry plan

Board says plan risks 'irreversable' damage to industry, opening up dairy market to imports ‘will boomerang against consumers.’

cottage cheese 311 R (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
cottage cheese 311 R
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
Dairy Board CEO Shayke Drori accused Finance Ministry officials on Tuesday of conducting behind-thescenes work that could cause “irreversible” damage to the Israeli dairy industry.
“According to reports, you intend to hold discussions in the coming days that will come to conclusions with critical and irreversible consequences affecting the future of the Israeli dairy industry, which is one of the best and most efficient [dairy industries] in the world, if not the best of them all,” he wrote in a letter addressed to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.
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“In inverse proportion to the significance of the decision, we have been witnesses these last few days to dangerous and irresponsible behavior by Finance Ministry officials – within the framework of what they call ‘administrative work’ – in the lead-up to the discussions in your bureau,” the letter said.
Drori, as head of the dairy industry’s government-established regulatory authority, oversees some 950 dairy producers and 13,500 industry employees. He said the ministry had not been engaged in administrative work, “but rather in an amateurish attempt to strike fear into the Israeli dairy industry through 10 days of disrupted phone calls and messages sent back and forth at all hours of night and day.”
Drori warned that Finance Ministry officials, with “no previous understanding whatsoever of the issue,” are likely to damage a network of dairy manufacturers built over many years and symbolizing “the beautiful face of true Zionism.” He had nothing personal against individual Finance Ministry officials, he added.
Drori wrote that he had restrained himself from making a declaration prior to Tuesday, but he had no choice other than to turn to the prime minister after his attempts to assist ministry officials in their research of the industry were ignored.
In a personal plea to the prime minister, Drori wrote: “The discussions taking place at the moment are cynically taking advantage of the public protest, in order to forward an economic agenda that has been shown to not be appropriate for the dairy market.”
He added: “Even in those countries that represent pure capitalism – in the United States and the European Union, in every enlightened nation – the dairy market, because of its unique characteristics, is controlled and supervised. In other countries it is also subsidized. In Israel, as you know, the direct subsidies amount to zero!!!”

Drori said recent tests had shown that the rising price of cottage cheese on supermarket shelves had nothing to do with the cost of dairy production. He warned that opening up the dairy market to importation “will have a boomerang effect against Israeli consumers within a matter of months.”
Drori said the price of milk and other basic products would rise as long as the current global shortage of dairy products prevails, adding that by opening up the market to imports it will be impossible to obtain dairy products in Israel in the off-season.
Copies of Drori’s letter were sent to Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and Agriculture Minister Orit Noked. The Finance Ministry said it had no immediate response to the letter.