After Fish Deal, Gov’t Aims to Cut Meat Duties as Well

YERUSHALAYIM -
Cows wearing digital collars eat at dairy farm in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, southern Israel, that feeds data to a national database which monitors the output, health, genetics and fertility of every cow in Israel, May 19, 2015. Decades ago Israeli dairy farmers confronted a quandary - how could they provide milk to a fast-growing population in a country that is two-thirds desert, with little grazing land? They turned to technology, developing equipment that boosted output - from cooling systems to milk meters and biometrics - and have made Israeli cows the most productive in the world. REUTERS/Amir Cohen (Newscom TagID: rtrlseven058441.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]
Cows at a dairy farm in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, southern Israel. (Reuters/Amir Cohen)

After reaching an agreement with fish growers on gradually eliminating import duties on that product, the government is turning its attention to meat, a report in Globes said. The Finance and Agriculture Ministries are seeking to increase the amount of duty-free imports of fresh meat by 5,000 tons a year — an 88 percent increase over the current level of 5,700 tons.

Similar to the deal with fish growers, the ministries are prepared to offer cattle growers subsidies to enable them to adjust to the new market conditions. According to a plan presented to cattle growers, an additional 2,500 tons of meat will be authorized for duty-free import this year, increased to 5,000 extra tons next year. An initial meeting with the growers last week ended on a positive note, Globes reported.

The fresh meat that was imported over the past year, during the first increase in duty-free imports, was shechted abroad – so far, Poland has been a popular source for fresh meat – soaked and salted, then chilled and shipped to Israel. Most of the meat is shechted under the hashgachah of the Rabbinate and is glatt Beit Yosef.

Studies have shown that the program has so far helped bring the overall price of meat down by 11 percent to 25 percent, depending on the season and the cut. As a result of the lower prices, sales of fresh meat have risen by 20 percent since the beginning of the year, while sales of frozen meat, slaughtered and shipped from South America, have fallen by a similar amount.

The alternative to imported fresh meat is locally produced meat, which is substantially more expensive than the imports. The average price for all cuts of locally produced meat is NIS 85 per kilo ($10/pound) vs. NIS 69 per kilo ($8.10/pound) for imports. The price of frozen meat is substantially lower.