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June 29: Israel’s Cottage Cheese Boycott

June 28, 2015

MilchTnuva_cottage_bigThe Tnuva cooperative dairy company, one of Israel’s largest food companies — it controls 70 percent of the dairy market and is considered a legal monopoly by the Israel Antitrust Authority — responded to a nationwide cottage-cheese boycott by lowering the price of the food, a staple in Israel, on this date in 2011. The boycott had been launched by Itzik Alrov, a resident of Bnei Brak, on Facebook earlier in the month to protest food price increases that had, following deregulation, increased the price of cottage cheese by more than 45 percent, and more than 100,000 consumers quickly signed on. Supermarkets and other food outlets were soon lowering prices on cottage cheese, sometimes to below wholesale, in order to appease angry customers. Despite price cuts, however, at the end of 2013 the Israeli government imposed price controls on Tnuva, lowering prices by about 20 percent after declaring the company’s prices were “excessive and unreasonable.” The cottage cheese boycott helped lead to nationwide social-justice protests across Israel, including the erection of “Occupy”-style tent cities in Tel Aviv and numerous other cities and towns, which lasted throughout the summer and early autumn of 2011 but ultimately failed to halt the momentum of the Netanyahu government at the polls.

“What happened in 2009 and 2010, when the price of cottage cheese increased 12 percent while its production cost decreased 4 percent, leaves no room for doubt: Tnuva took advantage of its status in the cottage cheese market and repeatedly raised prices.” —Professor Avia Spivak and Dr. Meir Amir, witnesses in class-action suit again Tnuva