For decades, the government and local manufacturers have made efforts to encourage Israeli consumers to buy Israeli-made products. But citizens of the Jewish state were never blinded by patriotic propaganda; according to a survey conducted in 1971, two years after the Manufacturers Association first launched a campaign to promote local goods, found that 75% of participants believed that the quality of Israeli-made merchandize was lower than that of the imported merchandize.
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In 2011, despite the attempts to resurrect the "buy local" campaign, consumers were not shy about declaring that they choose imported food products over Israeli ones. More importantly, they also called for boycotts of manufacturers whose goods were sold cheaper abroad than in Israel. The reason this time wasn't quality – but prices.
But can the protest movement bring to the anihilation of the local manufacturing industry? According to a poll conducted by the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, 86% of the 1,200 participants said they would prefer to buy an Israeli product that is priced the same as an imported one, and has the same quality.
Meanwhile, 37% said they would agree to pay up to 10% more for an Israeli product that is as well-made as the imported one. The ministry seeks to promote local goods by prominently labeling them as such.
Furthermore, a poll commissioned by Ynet found that 56.7% of consumers claim that when it comes to Israeli-made goods, they have not changed their buying habits recently, while 23.6% said that they buy more such products and 16.4% said they buy less of them.
The poll was conducted buy the Agenda institute and surveyed a sample of 458 people over the age of 25.
'Overcharging is unpatriotic'
Of those who said they prefer to buy Israeli products, 27.9% said they choose to support the local industry and 17.5% said they trust local manufacturers over foreign ones. But 25.7% said they have no other choice; in some departments, imported products are unavailable. Only 10% of the participants said they buy local because they consider the products better.
Among those who have cut back on buying local, 28.7% said they decided to do so because of changes in their financial situation. Over 20% said they buy imported goods because of their increasing prevalence on the shelves, and 22.4% said they have altered their habits as result of the social protest – even though only 10.5% believe that the imported mechanize is, in fact, cheaper. Only 8.6% said they said they believe that the imported goods are of higher quality.
Over the past year, protest leaders have called for boycotts of foods, manufacturers and stores whose prices were deemed exorbitant – included cottage cheese, Strauss candy bars and the Shufersal and Mega supermarket chains. And yet, 58.9% of those surveyed said it's important to them to buy Israeli-made food.
However, the consumers were willing to discard their ideological support when asked whether they prefer to buy imported produce if it's priced less than local fruit and vegetables – 67.5% said yes, accusing Israeli companies of abusing the lack of competition by raising prices.
"When we open the market for import, it is done one the expense of local employment and industry," a government source said.
Addressing the social protest, he added: "They want quick solutions but don't think of the consequences. We promote competition between local manufacturers. We aim to find balance between everyone's interests: manufacturers, consumers, the finance, agriculture and trade, labor and industry ministries. But we can't please everyone."
Benny Groberman, one leader of the consumer boycott on Israeli-made food products, conceded that the protest might hurt small, local manufacturers, but said it's the way to instigate change.
"It's very unpatriotic of them to demand us to be patriots when they act unpatriotically," he said, referring to local companies who overcharge.