Panel unveils ideas for food-price cuts
Committee, formed in the wake of last summer's cost-of-living protests, wants to increase competition in the retail food sector, but the recommendations are short on practical solutions.
The committee tasked with finding ways to lower food prices, formed in the wake of last summer's cost-of-living protests, presented its recommendations Monday.
The committee, headed by Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor Director-General Sharon Kedmi, wants to increase competition in the retail food sector, but the recommendations are short on practical solutions.
The committee's long list of recommendations include: imposing criminal and administrative sanctions against suppliers, retailers and their executives, who collude to keep food prices high; limiting buyouts and mergers by the largest firms in the retail sector; banning suppliers from arranging products on retailers' shelves and forcing retailers to provide smaller suppliers with shelf space; increasing price supervision over products with extremely high profitability; increasing imports of food products along with lower import duties; and taking steps to increase the sales of generic and house brands.
Other recommendations include limiting the number of stores - and their locations - that the large supermarket chains can open, as well as easing licensing and planning requirements for new food stores.
The committee also called for steps that would make it easier for small companies, suppliers and retailers, to find credit and capital, and for the state to find ways for smaller firms to participate in government tenders.
But most of the recommendations face serious opposition from business interests as well as farmers, and it will be a long road until these changes are enacted into legislation.
Another suggestion is to encourage the establishment of online food retailers and help them with government incentives. Increasing the number of farmers markets and opening wholesale markets to consumers is another possibility.
The Kedmi committee was established almost a year ago in response to last summer's protest movement. All the government committees that studied consumer prices following the cost-of-living protests reached the same conclusion: The cost of food in Israel rose by more than the cost of food in the West in recent years.
The recommendations will be presented first to the Finance and Industry, Trade and Labor minsters, and then to the cabinet for approval.