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Feb 18, 2013

Is the Eida squeezing its food producers a political or business issue?

Kashrut today is extremely complex.

From the perspective of the kashrut certifying agency, there is the aspect of food production being so complicated, with the increase in food technology and the amount of chemical combinations being used in food production, along with the level of mass production, that make it complicated to give a hechsher.

From the consumer's perspective it is complicated to know which hechsher promises what, and which hechsher is reliable or not, which enforces what it claims to enforce and which does not - there is little transparency, from the consumers perspective.

And then there is the food manufacturer's perspective. It seemed pretty simple. The manufacturer, or grower, has to produce his food. If he wants kashrut certification, he has to adhere to certain rules dictated by whichever agency he chooses for certification, perhaps alter his process a bit, pay some money, open his doors or gate or factory to the mashgichim of said agency, and then sell his product on the market.

It turns out that even from the producers perspective it is not so simple. It seems there is a lot of frustration in dealing with the kashrut agencies.

Netzer Shamir, a farmer for over 30 years in southern Israel, lashed out the other day at the certifying agency for the kashrut of his produce - the Eida HaChareidis. Shamir expressed his frustration, and his anger, saying that each orchard is required to have 3 kashrut supervisors, which he has to pay out of his own pocket, and, Shamir says, all they do is sit in their air conditioned cars and at some point stamp the picked fruit with the stamp of the Eida.

Shamir claims there is no need for so many supervisors. He says the Eida squeezes the farmers and makes them pay unnecessary money, and flexes a lot of muscle... Shamir gives the example of his lemon crop that he says he planted more than 3 years ago, and he bears a certificate from the Rabbanut attesting to that fact and that the fruit are kosher and no longer orlah. Yet, with a wave of the hand the Eida declared it all orlah and caused 10 ton of lemon to be wasted.

He says the mashgichim act with brazenness and chutzpah in the name of God, while the farmers have no choice but to comply. Somehow he connects this to politics by saying that it gets worse as the years go on, as the Prime Minister "chooses them and not me". I am not sure what that means, but that's what he said. Soon, Shamir continues, there will be supervisors over every neighborhood, on every kibbutz and moshav, and in every kindergarten, school and youth club. He says from his point of view they don't even need to go to the army, but they must go to work so that maybe they will understand what it means to bring food forth from the land. "they should go support their families instead of supervising me. I know how to produce fruit without them".

The response to this is that nobody is forcing Shamir or any other farmer or food manufacturer to use any specific hechsher. If the hechsher of the Eida is too expensive or their rules are too difficult to follow, employ a different supervising agency. Clearly, Shamir or other growers, felt that employing the Eida exposes their produce to markets they would otherwise not have access to.

The entire ruckus raised by Netzer Shamir began with a letter he sent to yair Lapid demanding Lapid's attention to the matter, and has since ballooned to the national media.
(source: Kikar and Bechadrei)

You can agree with the Eida's requirements or not, but if you choose the Eida, don't complain about the cost or the process - they were chosen specifically because of that. The people who trust and eat Eida over others, are proud of the fact that the food costs more, because it comforts them in knowing that the process of the production was clearly more intense and reliable, from a kashrut perspective. Agree or not with the Eida, the only reason to pay for the Eida's hechsher is to have access to all those thousands of people who prefer to see the Eida stamp on the package of food.

Shamir, and other growers, could just as well take the Rabbanut hechsher, that they already have, and go to market with that. They will expose their produce to an estimated 80% of the country. I do not know why that is not enough for Shamir, but he wants exposure to close to 100% so he pays the Eida to give him certification. but, it turns out, Shamir wants the exposure to the Eida's clientele without paying the cost.

it is not a political issue. It is a business issue.

Kashrut certifying agencies should not be abusive. Perhaps some of their processes need to be changed. But, if you want access to the Eida's customers, pay the price and do so happily. If you don't consider it worthwhile, stop paying the Eida fee and go with a different agency.

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  1. I thought that his issue was that he felt they were running a protection racket that used blackmail to pay them off so as to not be banned.

    Perhaps I misunderstood.

    It's one thing to offer one's services and quite another to say that if you don't hire us, we will destroy you.

    In other words, was their declaring his lemons orlah done as a public service or was it to frighten those who think about not having the Eida hashgacha.

    Again, perhaps I misunderstood.

  2. that is possible, but he never says they threatened him and he never says he was considering taking his business elsewhere at the time, so I have no reason to believe that that was the case in this instance.

  3. the response of the eida:



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