No Fast-tracking Dairy Reforms, Rules Attorney General

Finance Ministry and Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry wants to push through plans to give the local dairy industry competition by increasing imports.

A plan by two ministries to push through dairy imports - contrary to the Agriculture Ministry's wishes and despite a case pending with the High Court of Justice - has been scuttled by the attorney general.

The Finance Ministry and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry wanted to push through plans to give the local dairy industry competition by increasing imports.

Dairy farmers protesting - Nir Keidar - 27012012
Nir Keidar

The cabinet had been scheduled Sunday to discuss the plan, based on proposals made by a committee examining the country's dairy industry. But Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ruled the cabinet could not yet discuss the plan since the matter is still being discussed by the High Court of Justice.

Dairy farmers had appealed to the High Court against the committee's conclusions, and the justices called on the committee to give the farmers a hearing and report back to it by March.

The committee has not yet done so.

The farmers claim the plan does them an injustice, since it dramatically reforms the dairy industry from their side, but barely touches the dairies or retailers. The latter are largely responsible for the high prices that the committee means to combat, they argue.

Among other measures, the proposal, which is opposed by the Agriculture Ministry, calls for reducing import duties on dairy imports, and for allowing for imports of up to 4,000 tons of powdered milk by 2015, among other products. While it calls for giving preference to small dairies, larger dairies would also be eligible to receive import licenses.

Sector sources say this could harm competition, contrary to the reform's intent.