Olive oil producer Zeita filed a High Court petition against the Finance, Agriculture and Industry, Trade and Labor ministries, saying their olive oil pricing guidelines have resulted in what it called "outrageous prices."
Zeita, which is a Wissotzky Inc subsidiary, said the three ministries' conduct was in violation of the Antitrust Law and was promoting an artificial price hike, rendering olive oil prices in Israel among the highest in the world.
Zeita co-founder Amir Gur-Lavie told Ynet that "the ministries' conduct is detrimental to consumers and olive oil manufacturers alike. Some five million olive oil consumers in Israel are forced to pay double the price consumers worldwide pay."
Zeita, he added, decided to take an unprecedented step and ask authorities to cut consumer prices, "So that quality olive oil could become widely affordable."
The company's data suggests that a 1-litter bottle of olive oil is priced at NIS 42 ($12.4) in Israel. The same bottle costs NIS 17 ($5) in Spain, NIS 18 ($5.32) in Australia, NIS 22 ($6.5) in the UK and NIS 23 ($6.8) in the US.
As a result of the price difference, imported olive oil prices in Israel are lower than domestically-produced olive oil, averaging at NIS 36 ($10.6).
Zeita says imported olive oil brands make up 20% of the Israeli olive oil market.
The company's petition further suggests that the Plants Production and Marketing Board, which answers to the Agriculture Ministry, engages in price-fixing and setting "target prices" – which exceeds its authority.
The Plants Production and Marketing Board took over the industry's regulation after gross irregularities were found in the Israeli Olive Oil Board.
The petition further calls on the state to annul the high taxes imposed on raw materials in the industry, which Zeita said would decrease consumer prices by 30% almost immediately.
The levies were imposed to encourage the domestic production of olive oil by some 20 manufacturers, and adhere to international importing agreements Israel is signed to.
A source in the Plants Production and Marketing Board dismissed the petition as "nonsense," saying it aimed to serve solely Zeita's interests.
An olive oil industry source added that Zeita wants to see import taxes reduced since its entire production depends on imported raw materials.
"The State aims to expand the olive oil industry in Israel, because it's 'green' and water efficient. Zeita are importers. They don’t really care about the Israeli consumer."
The court ordered the State to file its rebuttal to the petition within 60 days.
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