Hard cheese is obstacle in dispute over dairy imports

Meeting between Netanyahu, Simhon and other senior ministers to end the dairy-market crisis ends with no resolution.

Reuven Rivlin milking cow 311 (photo credit: Yossi Zamir)
Reuven Rivlin milking cow 311
(photo credit: Yossi Zamir)
Another meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and other senior ministers on the dairy-market crisis ended without resolution late Thursday.
Netanyahu and the ministers met with Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry director-general Sharon Kedmi, who heads a committee working on solutions to the crisis, and other people involved in the dairy industry, before holding a closed-door session for cabinet members only.
The main stumbling block was over a dispute between Simhon and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz over the quantity of hard cheese permitted for import, Simhon’s spokesperson said.
During the meeting, Simhon presented Netanyahu with a report showing that profit margins in Israel’s retail industry are among the highest in the world, which the spokesperson said was “received with astonishment.”
Netanyahu has appointed Prime Minister’s Office director-general Eyal Gabbai to try to bridge the gaps between the sides.
Meanwhile, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and members of the legislature’s Economic Affairs Committee visited two dairy farms in the northern Negev and coastal plains on Thursday, against the backdrop of the debate over dairy-market regulation.
Rivlin said he had faith in the committee’s ability to make the right judgment once the Kedmi Committee presents solutions to the dairy crisis, which he said the Government would not be able to ignore.

Committee chairman Carmel Shama-Hacohen (Likud) said the dairy farms provided “an outstanding example of the added ethical and Zionist value of the dairy industry, which must be taken into account.”
Knesset agriculture lobby chairman Shai Hermesh said a 10-agorot cut in the target price of dairy products would translate to a NIS 130 million loss for dairy farmers. A dairy farmer’s wage typically goes no higher than NIS 10,000 a month, he said, and the suggested cut would bring this down to NIS 5,000.