The fierce competition between supermarket chains as the Passover holiday approaches is allegedly causing distortions in the market for the holiday's most basic commodity unleavened bread, or matza.
Retailers that tried to order matza in the past few days have met refusal from the matza companies, who say they are short of stocks. On these grounds, the manufacturers are refusing to supply chains with which they have no exclusive agreement.
A telephone conversation between one of the chains and a matza producer played back to "Globes" today reveals a different reason.
Retailer: "Can you supply me with matza?"
Producer: "No. I tell you sincerely, I'm being subjected to pressure. There are people who came first that I have an obligation to. There's nothing I can do."
Retailer: "Can't you give me just a bit, 2,000 matzot?”
Producer: "No, no chance. I apologize, but I can't. Pressure is being put on me by your colleagues that work with me exclusively. I thought I could let you have something, but I realized that we're getting into much deeper water."
Sources inform "Globes" that yesterday evening, Rami Levy, who controls the Rami Levy Shivuk Hashikma chain, contacted Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Binyamin Ben-Eliezer over the matter. Levy claimed that the chain "was suffering from a severe shortage of matzot to sell to private consumers," and could not buy the quantity of matza it required.
According to Levy, it would appear that "there is an informal agreement between the matza factories on the quantities of matzot each factory will produce during the holiday and the identity of the chain each will sell to and how much will be sold to it.
"If such an agreement exists, and there seems to be no other possibility," Levy continued, "then we have a very serious phenomenon here which requires immediate intervention by all law and enforcement agencies.
"My supplier, Matzot Israel, said he had no matzot. He says he delivers to me straight from the oven. Matzot Rishon tells me 'I have no stock. You should have come three months ago.' Matzot Aviv and Matzot Yehuda said the same. They have apparently received threats from the major chains because I sell cheaply," Levy says.
Other chains also report shortages or limited supply.
No response could be obtained from the matza companies.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labor said that the matter was being investigated.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on March 25, 2010
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2010