Israelis are up in arms after a Facebook user published a photo of Tnuva-brand butter being sold in Canada for less than its price in Israel, while Israelis have been facing butter shortages for the past year.
Tnuva is Israel’s largest dairy manufacturer. It has argued that the shortage of butter is due to a shortage of milk fat. Others speculate that Tnuva, along with Israel’s other dairies, are limiting their butter production in order to pressure the government to raise dairy prices, or to use the raw ingredient — butterfat — to make items with higher profit margins. Butter is one of several dairy items subject to government price controls.
Tnuva butter is likely being exported and sold in locations beyond Toronto, where it was photographed over the weekend being sold for 0.97 Canadian dollars per 100-gram bar (U.S. $0.73). Another Facebook user photographed Tnuva butter on supermarket shelves in Miami, being sold for $3.09 per 100-gram bar. Others said it was available in Montreal as well.
Tnuva butter is thought to sell for $2.39-$3.99 per 100-gram bar in the United States.
In Israel, Tnuva butter is sold for 3.94 shekels per 100 grams ($1.13), a price set by the government.
For nearly a year, Israelis have been facing butter shortages, with supermarket shelves frequently devoid of butter. The dairy industry has said the shortage is only going to worsen over the next year.
Tnuva CEO Eyal Malis denied that the shortage was due to Tnuva limiting butter production due to financial motivations. He said the shortage was due to importers choosing not to import butter, given the increase in price in kosher butter abroad. Last year, Tnuva increased butter production by 28% and used up its reserves of butterfat, he claimed.
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As for the butter being sold at low prices in Canada, Malis claimed that this was from old stock.
“Tnuva hasn’t exported butter since the shortage began,” he said. “The last time we exported butter to the United States was in March.”
Furthermore, Tnuva’s butter exports are equal to only 0.003% of its butter sales volume in Israel, he said.
Malis’ statement regarding exports as late as March raises questions, given that the dairy producers forecast the butter shortage last year, and butter was lacking in stores as early as January.