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GAIN Report - IS5009Page 4 of 2

A.  Food Laws

General Food Import Considerations

Israeli importers face two main considerations when selecting a particular product - quality and price. In the price range, American products are not always attractive; due to the high production costs in the U.S., and high transportation costs to Israel, relative to suppliers from near-by Europe and the Mediterranean basin. Transporting costs from the United States is about the same as the transportation cost from the Far East. From Europe, the costs are significantly lower not to mention even closer countries such as Turkey, which competes, with the United States over imports of dried fruit and nuts to Israel. The problem of transportation costs is less crucial when dealing with expensive products and materials, with very high value-to-volume ratios such as spices, essences, flavorings, concentrates etc. The problem is also partially resolved when dealing with products that are eligible for tariff preferences on imports from the United States. This partially compensates for the high transport costs.  US goods enjoy a 10-22 percent tariff advantage over European and third world country suppliers on a broad range of processed and semi-processed foodstuffs.

Another subject to be considered is the issue of “kashrut”.  Kosher certification is not a legal requirement for importing food into Israel. However, non-kosher products have a much smaller market as supermarkets and hotels refuse to carry them.  Manufacturers who produce kosher products must be able to satisfy Israeli rabbinical supervisors that all ingredients and processes are kosher. According to the Law for Prevention of Fraud in Kashrut, only the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is authorized to determine and approve a product as kosher for consumption in Israel, or authorizes another supervisory body to act in its name.  Here too United States products have an advantage as the kashrut certification issued by many American rabbis is recognized by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.  It is, however, quite simple for Israeli importers to send an Israeli rabbi to any supply source, thereby reducing the American advantage. In recent years, opportunity for non-kosher foods has been increasing as immigrants from Former Soviet Union (FSU) consist now a significant share of purchase power. (15 percent)

Prohibited Imports

Israel, which is a signatory to the WTO Agreement, maintains relatively few restrictions on agricultural imports. U.S. meat exports face an especially difficult environment due to the enactment at the end of 1994 of a ban on all non-kosher meat and poultry imports except offal. The United States - Israel FTAA of 1985 allows both countries the use of nontariff restrictions or prohibitions on products from agricultural sub sectors, which are subject to agricultural policy considerations.  The recent WTO accords do not. Instead WTO rules call for tariffication of administrative and technical barriers. Israel has removed most administrative barriers to United States imports but has retained high levies on sensitive products and imposes various constraints and barriers, for example, those pertaining to kosher certification, for meat and poultry.

The only other product prohibitions are targeted against internationally controlled substances and/or are designed to protect public morals, human, animal or plant health, or national security.

UNCLASSIFIEDUSDA Foreign Agricultural Service

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