The Cabinet, at its weekly meeting today, approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal for reform in the import of food to Israel, in the framework of the Government’s efforts to reduce the cost of food in Israel. In the framework of the reform, Israel will adopt the existing European Union procedure on the import of food, which will facilitate a dramatic opening of the economy to the massive importation of food products while increasing the range of imported items. It is expected that this move will lead to increased competitiveness and lower prices for consumers.
The reform was formulated by a committee which considered the parallel importation of food. The committee was chaired by Prime Minister’s Office Director General Harel Locker and included Health Ministry Director General Ronny Gamzu, Economy Ministry Director General Amit Lang and Finance Ministry Budget Director Amor Levy. The reform was presented to the Cabinet by the Health, Finance and Economy ministers and will be implemented by the Health Ministry. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Health Minister Yael German personally supervised the committee’s work.
The reform will be significant vis-à-vis lowering the cost of living and deals with the import of all "non-sensitive" food products (such as pasta, grains, cookies, etc., as opposed to meat products, dairy products and baby food, etc.). According to Central Bureau of Statistics data, the import of non-sensitive food products constitutes half of total food imports to Israel, with overall imports being estimated at approximately $4.3 billion. Today, there are restrictions on the import of food and the aforesaid committee considered ways to significantly ease the processes of importing food to Israel so as to bring about the entry to Israel of many imported foods, some new and some which have previously been sold in Israel, while maintaining appropriately high regulatory standards in the field of health. Until now, the Health Ministry has required detailed permits for each imported food item. The process included a requirement to submit many forms and entailed a separate bureaucratic process for food item as well as sampling checks of the imported food.
At the start of today’s Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu emphasized: "We are also making an effort to lower the cost of living in the State of Israel and today we will approve a joint decision – by myself, the Finance Minister, the Health Minister and the Economy Minister – to lower food prices in various fields. We will simplify the bureaucracy in order to allow for the import of food that does not have sensitive health issues. This will certainly increase competitiveness and lower prices. This is part of the same continuing effort we are making to lower the cost of living in the State of Israel."
Prime Minister’s Office Director General Locker said: "What motivated us to establish the committee was to remove impediments to the import of food products. The importance of this step cannot be downplayed as it is no less dramatic for the Israeli consumer. Here, the Government is taking a step that places it alongside the EU from a regulatory point-of-view. Its significance to competition in the marketplace is great and this will be felt by every citizen of Israel in his or her purchases. The policy of the Prime Minister and the entire Government is to ease regulation, encourage competition and lower the cost of living and this reform will achieve these results."