While Thursday’s government decision to open the Israeli dairy market to imported products may please those who initiated the cottage cheese protest, it may end up actually raising the price of dairy products instead of lowering them.
According to Rabbi Chaim Lasri of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Import Division, opening the market to imports of dairy products from abroad will not help consumers, because importing these products while ensuring that kashrut is strictly observed, will not be financially worthwhile.
During an interview on Thursday with Kol Chai radio, Rabbi Lasri explained that in order to certify that a dairy product is Chalav Yisrael, supervision is required from the start of the milking process. This, he said, will significantly raise the cost of importing such products and will not be worthwhile to the importers.
“It is easy to import milk that is Chalav Yisrael as long as the quantities are small,” he said. “But if you’re talking about large quantities it would hardly be practical.
“It’s true that you can do anything with money, but why should the importers carry that weight?” he continued. “The consumer will ultimately be the one to absorb the burden, plain and simple. Providing imported milk and its byproducts to the religious population in the country who keep kosher would be very very hard.”
Among the measures announced by the government on Thursday to reduce dairy prices is a cut in the price of untreated milk, from 2.15 shekels per liter to 2.09 shekels.
The cheese market will be opened to foreign competition, it was decided, with annual imports of hard cheeses to be allowed to grow to 9,000 tons, as opposed to 1,080 today. By 2016, there will be no limitations on imports of hard cheese.
Annual powdered milk imports will be allowed to reach 4,000 tons by 2015.
It was also decided to establish a fourth dairy firm besides Tnuva, Straus and Tara.
Dairy farmers have already announced their intention to protest the cut and have filed an appeal to the High Court.