kedmi - Tomer Appelbaum - June 28 2011
Sharon Kedmi Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Tess Scheflan
Yossi Yishai Photo by Tess Scheflan

A new interministerial panel is to investigate the alleged lack of competition in the country's food industry, including the dairy sector. The decision was announced yesterday by Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon. It will be tasked with carrying out a survey of the sector, in order to identify barriers to reducing retail prices and to recommend measures to encourage competition.

Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry Director General Sharon Kedmi has been tapped to head the body, which will also include Agriculture Ministry Director General Yossi Yishai and the chief economist at the Antitrust Commission, Eran Yaakov. The committee's brief is to include looking at barriers to food imports and examining local food production, distribution and marketing, using data from other countries for the purpose of comparison.

Close look at dairy

The panel is mandated to give special attention to the chain of production in the dairy industry, in the face of the ongoing consumer boycott of cottage cheese to protest the high retail price of the staple product. A subcommittee is to be formed to develop recommendations specifically related to the dairy sector, with an eye to reducing prices in both the short and the long terms.

The panel is to complete its work within four months and submit its recommendations, including any legislative changes it views as necessary.

The committee is authorized to expand its scope beyond the food industry if the members deem it essential to accomplish its goals. In the event the panel seeks more time to complete its work, it would issue an interim report by the end of the initial four-month deadline.

Kedmi is to continue to meet with industry representatives for the purpose of submitting recommendations by mid-July to address the rise in dairy prices.

The decision to launch a broader inquiry into the industry as a whole follows steep increases in food prices over the past two months. The committee will receive support from the legal departments of the treasury and the Trade, Industry and Labor Ministry, as well as the State Attorney General's office.