Israel's dairy farmers furious over dairy import decision

Dairymen are calling Netanyahu's decision cruel and idiotic, and said that it will destroy dairy farming in Israel.

Israel's dairymen and dairy industry in general are furious at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for adopting the Kedmi committee recommendations to allow expanded cheese and powdered milk imports and to cut the price of raw milk sent to dairies. The Israeli Cattle Breeders Association met on July 28 to discuss protest actions, according to the Israeli business daily, Globes.

Dairymen are calling Netanyahu's decision cruel and idiotic, and said that it will destroy dairy farming in Israel, Globes reported.

"We have no doubt that dairy farmers in Europe and tycoons in Israel are proud of the prime minister, because his decision will enrich them," said one dairy leader.

Israel’s dairy herd consists of 115,000 cows on 972 farms, according to the Israel Dairy Board. The Israeli cow has the highest national milk yield (production/cow/year) in the world, in milk volume and in milk solids, it adds.

Knesset farmers lobby chairman MK Shai Hermesh (Kadima) slammed Netanyahu, saying that his decision was "a cheap attempt to placate the tent protesters by slaughtering cows -- something that will cost us dearly.

“The prime minister, as is his wont, beats the poor instead of hitting the supermarket chains that are profiteering across a full range of food products,” Hermesh said. “He chose to attack the weakest link --the dairy farmers. This is a ringing slap in the face to the periphery, the confrontation lines, and working people. This is a populist decision that fruits of shame will be eaten by the Israeli consumer, which will soon face shortages of Israeli produce and will become dependent of food imports."”

The Israel Dairy Board said that the government's actions are based on fundamentally wrong assumptions. Exposing the Israeli dairy market to imports will not lower prices. Instead, this decision, combined with the reduction in the target price of milk, will force hundreds of dairy farms to close down across the country.

“The over-concentration of dairy production will only increase," stated the Dairy Board. "The entire data gathering process that preceded the decision was hasty, rushed, and did not rely on checked financial figures. This action has lowered the axe on Israel's dairy farms.”

Israel Farmers Federation chairman Avshalom Vilan also criticized Netanyahu's decision, saying that he was liquidating Israel's dairy industry.

“The government is a false hero, attacking the weakest link in the chain,” Vilan said. “Importing yellow cheese will result in the slaughter of 30% of Israel's dairy herds. Small dairymen will pay the full price, and it is doubtful whether consumer prices will fall, because the dairies and especially the big supermarket chains will continue to rake it in at the consumers' expense.”

Last week, the Israel Cattle Breeders Association petitioned the High Court of Justice for an injunction banning the government from moving forward on measures that will harm the dairy industry. The association claims that some of the Kedmi committee recommendations violate the Dairy Economy Planning Law. The Israel Dairy Board also petitioned for an injunction.

The High Court of Justice will hear the petitions in mid-August, by which time the government will have to submit its response, Globes reported.