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The Israeli Cottage cheese boycott or the Cottage cheese protest (Hebrew: מחאת הקוטג or חרם הקוטג) is an Israeli consumer boycott which began in June 2011 as a protest group on Facebook aimed at protesting against the continuing rise in food prices in Israel, and called the public to avoid buying cottage cheese, which is perceived as an elementary food item in Israel, at the current price. Soon enough 100,000 users joined the Facebook protest page[1] and at the same time the protest gained momentum and led to a broad public discourse about the high cost of living in Israel.[2]

Despite a wave in special sales designed to stop the boycott, chain stores reported a fall at a rate of tens of percentage points in the sales of the three monopoly manufacturers - Tnuva, Strauss and Tara,[3] and some chain stores were forced to announce that they would significantly reduce the retail price of cottage cheese.

Background[edit]

Cottage cheese is a popular commodity in Israel which is widely perceived as an elementary food item by the Israeli public. The Tnuva cooperative controls more than 70% of the market share in this type of cheese, while the companies Strauss and Tara control the rest of the market. In August 2008 The Israeli finance minister Avraham Hirschson declared that the government would stop regulating the price of cottage cheese, which stood at 4.82 NIS, in order to encourage competition in this market.[4] Contrary to the expectations, within three years the price of cottage cheese rose by about 45% of the original price up to approximately 8 NIS.

The protest[edit]

Following a series of articles by Ilanit Chaim in the Israeli daily evening financial newspaper Globes which covered the surge in food prices and the general cost of living in Israel, in June 2011 Itzik Alrov opened a protest group on Facebook calling the Israeli public to avoid purchasing cottage cheese, as a first step in lowering the cost of living in Israel. Although the boycott was intended to begin on July 1, 2011, in the meantime it gained much publicity in the media[5][6][7][8] and soon thereafter tens of thousands of Facebook users joined the protest group, and the total amount of members in the group soon passed 100,000. Due to the wide popularity of the cause, eventually the beginning of the boycott was moved up to mid-June 2011. Later on, the organizer of the protest page published a call through the facebook protest page to only purchase cottage cheese at the price of less than 5 NIS, and later on also called to boycott other dairy products.[9][10]

After the Zehavit Cohen, the CEO of the private equity fund Apax Partners Israel which has a controlling interest in the Tnuva cooperative, announced that it would not lower the price of the cottage cheese, other Facebook protest groups were established which now called to boycott all of Tnuva's products.[11]

Government response[edit]

As a result of the public protest, the opposition initiated a debate on the matter in the Knesset.[12] Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that they will begin examining the possibility to import dairy products from abroad in order to encourage competition in the Israeli dairy market. In addition, the Israeli minister of finance announced that the dairy products prices which are regulated by the government, would continue to be regulated by the government for the time being. State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss announced also that he would also inspect the the rising cost of dairy products.[13] Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin attacked the Tnuva cooperative when he stated "You purchase a domestic product, but the money goes abroad."[14]

The Kadmi Committee which examine the Israeli dairy farm handed its recommendations to the government in which it stated that the increase in the margin of retail chains is the main cause for the rise in prices of dairy products, it was followed by the margin contributed to the largest dairy manufacturers, while the smallest contributer to the rising of the milk prices were the Israeli dairy farmers.[15] Following these recommendations, as a first step, the Minister of Finance, signed a bill which would reduce customs on imports of hard cheeses.[16] The Israeli dairy farmers, which considered themselves to sustain the most damage from the implementation of the new reduced customs bill, began protesting against it.[17]

The response of the retail chain stores and milk cooperatives[edit]

The Israeli retail chain stores reported that sales dropped dramatically following the cottage protest and as a result several retail chains announced that they would significantly reduce the retail price of cottage cheese and cream cheese.[18]

After many days in which the milk cooperatives kept silent, eventually Ofra Strauss, the Chairperson of Strauss Group, broke the silence when she stated that: "We were wrong. The cost of food is too high" and added that "the difference between high-tech and consumer products is that we can not ignore what is happening to people".[19] The next day, Zehavit Cohen, the CEO of Tnuva, announced that Tnuva would refrain from rising the price of the dairy products before the year ends but it would not lower the price. However, five days after her declaration Tnuva succumbed to the boycott and announced on the reduction of prices by about 12.5% to 5.90 NIS.[20] Nevertheless, the protest organizers claimed that the price is still too high and that the boycott would continue until the price of cottage cheese dropped to 5 NIS. Shortly thereafter, all the Israeli milk cooperatives announced that they would lower the cottage prices.[21] The "Blue Square" supermarkets network, which operates the "Mega" supermarket chain, announced that they would drop down the basic commodities by 10%. The Shufersal supermarket chain announced that they would reduced the cottage cheese to 5.9 NIS.[22]

Due to the cottage cheese protests, the Israeli companies Soglowek and Osem, which both do not produce dairy products, also announced that they would suspend the planned price increases for their products.[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Jeffay, Nathan (June 28, 2011). "Rise in Israeli Cottage Cheese Prices Sparks Facebook Boycott –". Forward.com. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  2. ^ Koren, Ora; Zerhia, Zvi (2011-06-17). "התעוררו מתרדמת החורף: הפוליטיקאים נסחפים אחר מחאת הקוטג' - חדשות - דה מרקר TheMarker" (in Hebrew). Themarker.com. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  3. ^ Crystal, Meirav (1995-06-20). "ynet תנובה לממשלה: התערבו ובדקו את כולם - כלכלה" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  4. ^ Lavi, Zvi (1995-06-20). "ynet הקוטג'גייט: שש הערות לסדר היום - כלכלה" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  5. ^ Magnezi, Aviel (1995-06-20). "ynet קוטג' כמו ליטר בנזין: "הגיעו מים עד נפש" - חדשות" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  6. ^ Elrov, Itzik (1995-06-20). "ynet רוטשילד, אל תהרסו את המאבק - דעות" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  7. ^ Hochenberg, Eli (2011-06-15). "מחאת הקוטג' הצליחה" (in Hebrew). Glz.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  8. ^ "גלי צה"ל און-ליין - מחאת הקוטג' הצליחה". Glz.co.il. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  9. ^ "הקוטג' הוא הסימפטום: "הצרכנים משלמים את מחיר הריכוזיות"" (in Hebrew). Themarker.com. 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  10. ^ http://reshet.ynet.co.il/חדשות/news/Economics/Consumers/Article,72032.aspx
  11. ^ Hayut, Ilanit (June 26, 2011). "הציבור רותח: קבוצות בפייסבוק קוראות להחרים את תנובה - גלובס" (in Hebrew). Globes.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  12. ^ Nehemias, Omri (June 15, 2011). "קוטג' הוגש לנתניהו בעקבות המחאה. חברי כנסת: בזיון וזילות" (in Hebrew). News.nana10.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  13. ^ Nehemias, Omri; Hoderov, Matan (June 20, 2011). "מבקר המדינה יבדוק את מחירי הקוטג', נתניהו: נשקול לייבא מוצרי חלב" (in Hebrew). News.nana10.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  14. ^ Azulai, Moran (1995-06-20). "ריבלין נגד תנובה: קונים כחול-לבן, והכסף לחו"ל" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  15. ^ "הוועדה לבדיקת משק החלב ממליצה: הורדת מחיר המטרה והגדלת היבוא" (in Hebrew). Calcalist.co.il. 1995-06-20. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  16. ^ Litman, Tal; Shawn, Mark (2011-08-03). "צעד ראשון באימוץ מסקנות קדמי: שטייניץ חתם על צו לפתיחת משק החלב לייבוא" (in Hebrew). Calcalist.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  17. ^ Filer, Boaz (2011-08-03). "5,000 רפתנים צעדו: "העם דורש חלב ישראלי"" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  18. ^ Cristal, Meirav (2011-06-20). "שופרסל תמכור 2 קוטג' ב-10 ש' ללא הגבלת זמן" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  19. ^ Goldstein, Tani (1995-06-20). "עפרה שטראוס: "טעינו; יוקר המזון הוא מכה"" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  20. ^ Koren, Hillel; Avigad (June 24, 2011). "זהבית כהן: "גם אם יכניסו הקוטג' לפיקוח המחיר יירד 0-50 אגורות"" (in Hebrew). Globes.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25.  Unknown parameter |lfirst2= ignored (help)
  21. ^ Goldstein, Tani; Cristal, Meirav (2011-06-30). "אחרי תנובה: כל חברות החלב הוזילו את הקוטג'" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  22. ^ Dovrat-Mazritch, Adi (2011-06-29). "מגה: נוזיל ב-10% את מוצרי היסוד; שופרסל: הקוטג' יוזל ל-5.9 שקלים" (in Hebrew). Themarker.com. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  23. ^ Cristal, Meirav (June 23, 2011). "הצלחה למאבק: זוגלובק ואסם לא יעלו מחירים" (in Hebrew). Ynet.co.il. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 

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