MPs accuse Shufersal and Rami Levy of food price collusion

The day after the Competition Authority raided the offices of a major supermarket chain and food producer, the Knesset Economics Committee held a stormy debate on the cost of living.

Shufersal CEO Itzhak Aberkohen vigorously denied allegations that his supermarket chain was colluding prices with manufacturers. Rami Levy, owner of the supermarket chain that bears his name, was expelled from the meeting after yelling at Knesset members and calling them populists.

Israel’s food industry came under intense scrutiny last week after it was revealed that Shufersal, Israel’s largest supermarket chain, was offering a website targeting Haredi shoppers with prices lower than its website. main shopping. Consumers are already frustrated with the rising cost of living, with food prices beginning to climb significantly for the first time in a decade, and the revelation that Shufersal was discounting products by 10-20% for the ultra-Orthodox market seemed imply that all the others are friars (fools) for paying more.

Shufersal responded to the public outcry by suspending the mehadrin site, but that fueled further anger as the public demanded to know why they were paying so much.

“What a shame to shut down the haredi site,” UTJ MK Uri Maklev told the committee meeting on Wednesday. “After digging this well and drinking from it, will you shut it down instead of giving everyone the same price?”

A WOMAN pushes children into a shopping cart in front of a Shufersal ‘Sheli’ in Ma’aleh Adumim (credit: AMMAR AWAD / REUTERS)

On Tuesday, Competition Authority agents raided the offices of Shufersal, the Victory supermarket chain, food producer Strauss Group and food importer Diplomat Holdings, saying they were suspected of violating fair competition laws in the market. . Details on the allegations have not yet been released, but the parties are understood to be accused of price collusion. The investigation is expected to continue for the next few days.

Aberkohen and Levy were furious when they joined the committee meeting on Wednesday morning. When Aberkohen entered the meeting, Levy told him, “Don’t sit next to me. They’ll say we’re in cahoots.”

When the Chairman of the Economics Committee, MK Michael Bitton, asked Aberkohen if Shufersal was colluding prices with other chains, he angrily replied: “Are you normal? No!”

The committee debated who was responsible for allowing the cost of living in Israel to be so high, with accusations flying against farmers, importers, distributors and current and former governments. In the end, he promised to deepen his study of the subject and draw up plans to reduce the cost of living.

The national budget approved by the government last week included an extensive list of reforms that promise to lower the cost of living by making it cheaper and easier to import goods from abroad. Meanwhile, prices of all kinds of products have risen around the world in recent months due to delays in the global supply chain and other factors related to the pandemic.

Food prices in Israel have not increased significantly in about a decade. Since a surge in cottage cheese prices turned into the 2011 social justice protests that brought hundreds of thousands of angry Israelis to the streets, supermarket chains have feared that the social cost of raising prices is not worth it. . However, with production costs rising so rapidly, retailers say they now have no choice but to raise prices.

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