Butter Shortage Set to Be Resolved as Markets Opened, Duties Suspended

In the dairy aisle. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

The Great Butter Shortage will soon be over, government officials said, as the ministers of agriculture and economy agreed to lift limits on the amount of butter that can be imported, and eliminate the high import taxes on butter. Barriers to butter import will be suspended for at least six months, after which the situation will be reevaluated.

Butter is still in short supply, as it has been for the entire spring and summer. Israeli-produced butter is nowhere to be found, and has been off the shelves altogether for the better part of a year now; what butter was available was highly priced and imported. The vast majority of butter produced in Israel is made by Tnuva, which for the past year and a half has been claiming that there is a milk-fat shortage, meaning that a key ingredient for butter production is missing.

Whatever the reason, both Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and Economy Minster Eli Cohen said they hoped the changes would resolve the problem by filling Israeli store shelves with low-cost butter. The decision to change the import arrangements came after Ariel sent Cohen a letter laying out the situation, and pleading for a resolution via the cancellation of import duties and limits for six months.

The same proposal had already been under discussion in the Economy Ministry, and the letter from Ariel provided the impetus to finalize the decision.

Import duties on butter range from 126% to 160%, depending on whether it is used for household or industrial purposes. The elimination of the duty and opening up the market is expected to bring butter prices down to normal levels, and increase the supply of butter.

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