Israeli cosmetics exports down last year...

... and is the government to blame?

A demonstrator wears a shirt reading 'Boycott Israel' [File] (photo credit: AFP/ MOHD RASFAN)
A demonstrator wears a shirt reading 'Boycott Israel' [File]
(photo credit: AFP/ MOHD RASFAN)
A walk through the A. Meshi cosmetics factory in Bat Yam should allay anyone’s fears that anti-Israel efforts to get consumers to boycott Israeli cosmetics manufacturers are having an effect. In a facility that spans 6,500 square meters, boxes of the company’s Dead Sea skincare and Mon Platin haircare lines are stored in warehouses, with destinations written boldly: United Kingdom, Belarus, New York. The founders of A. Meshi are three brothers who started out in 1994 in a 120-sq.m. factory in Bat Yam. Today, the company employs 130 people and turns over $15 million in annual sales. They would never remove the “Made in Israel” label and make a point of including prod- uct information in Hebrew. While Israeli politicians seem to be concerned about the impact the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement might have on the economy, a recent press tour of local cosmetics factories hosted by Isra- el’s Manufacturers Association revealed that the biggest obstacle to expanding export may be the government itself.
“Government regulation makes it very hard for the industry to advance,” said co-founder Yermiyahu Mizrachi. “I’d like the govern- ment to offer more support and tools for assisting the cosmetics indus- try so we can export more. We’d like grants and aid in exhibiting, and minimized regulations for exporting abroad.”
According to the Manufacturers Association, cosmetics industry exports have fallen by 10 percent from 2014 to 2015, from $609m. to $546m. The only region that saw an increase was Asia, a market to which factories are turning in order to make up for lagging sales in Europe. Sales to Asia have increased by 14%, while sales to the EU declined by 31% and to Eastern Europe and Russia by 40%. There are 80 cosmetics companies in Israel, most of which are small to medi- um-sized, employing a total of 10,000. According to Haviv Peer of Peer Pharm, Israeli products are sought by European companies. One reason is the cost-effectiveness of shipping from Israel; another is Israel’s reputation for inventiveness – such as pioneering products with natural ingredients such as argan oil.
“Israel is one of the leading countries in the realm of cosmetics, in part due to the Dead Sea,” Peer said. “Israelis are also very daring, which finds expression in innovation and development. They’re always open to adopting new standards.” In the Peer Pharm factory in Rosh Ha’ayin, employees work on assem- bly lines, taking vats of the mixed product, squeezing them through machines that measure them into tubes and canisters, and then affixing labels. Peer Pharm mixes recipes for its own products, as well as for for - eign companies that commission their work for private labels.
It’s for these private labels that onerous regulations create particular gridlock. The Health Ministry requires every new product to meet licensing standards for Israel, even if the destination country has differ - ent regulations. It could take up to six months for a new product to receive the ministry’s stamp of approval. Yaki Shklarsh of Spa Cosmetics, which he co-founded in 1988, said that sales are not significantly affected by political boycotts, although some companies request that they work under the radar as an Israeli company. The bulk of their sales to major American discount clothing chains have remained steady. “The Israeli cosmetics industry is growing,” Shklarsh said, “but there are governmental obstacles that create a massive workload for us. For example, while Europe has already completed adapting and registering products, in Israel you still pay a fee for every product.”
Hadar Mareli, director of the Manufacturers Association’s cosmetics department, said the association is working with the Health Ministry to enact reforms to have Israel adopt European licensing standards. “This type of double licensing doesn’t exist anywhere in the world,” she said. In response to In Jerusalem ’s request for comment, the ministry stat- ed: “We have worked to change the legislation and initiated the writing of pharmaceutical and cosmetics standards, which will replace the law and enable the export of cosmetics without a license. These standards will be brought to the Labor, Welfare and Health Committee in the next Knesset session and will enable cosmetics for export abroad to not have to wait for a license.” •