Israel’s entire food supply chain to be declared essential

New regulations to declare all suppliers in the food and beverage industries essential, enabling them to work at full capacity.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The food and beverage supply chains in Israel will be declared as “essential during a state of emergency,” enabling employees to work at full capacity.

All factories and suppliers in the food and beverage industry will be exempt from the Ministry of Health guidelines that currently require non-essential businesses to reduce their workforces by 70%.

Other industries, including those manufacturing cleaning products, toiletries, hygiene products, and diapers are also expected to be declared essential.

The change was spearheaded by Minister of Economy Eli Cohen, who submitted a proposal for government approval, with input from the National Security Council and the Prime Minister’s Office.

The proposal is expected to be approved next Sunday. This marks the first occasion in Israel’s history in which “essential” has been redefined to include all businesses within a particular industry, rather than individual factories or suppliers.

Until now, only basic food suppliers like dairies, bakeries, and canning factories were defined as essential. According to the new regulations, the entire food industry supply chain, including shipping, logistics and transport companies, packaging plants, storage facilities, and distribution points will be considered essential.

Defining the entire food supply chain as essential will help the industry continue running smoothly in all aspects so that food can reach the general public without major disruptions.

In order to enable uninterrupted food imports from abroad, many transport, storage, and custom clearance services specifically dealing with importation were included in the new “essential” definition.

The move was made to ensure the continued importation of food products to the Jewish state via sea and air. The Ministry of Economy added in a statement, “Most of the food consumed in Israel is produced in Israel. There are no problems in the import sector, so there is no shortage of other food or of consumer products such as toiletries.”

Joining the many food supply chain businesses petitioning the government to recognize them as essential services, Dan Solomon of the Celiac Rights Organization urged the Ministry of Economy to recognize gluten-free food suppliers and stores as essential in an emergency. “This is not a culinary preference here, but a necessary and real medical need,” he wrote.

Besides hospitals, health clinics and pharmacies, the public HMOs will continue to operate optical clinics, emergency dentistry services, mother and infant centers, and more. All manufacturing centers and supply chains concerning medical equipment, rehabilitation equipment, pharmaceuticals, and medical equipment were defined as essential. This includes transport, storage, packaging, imports, marketing and wholesale and retail distribution, such as pharmacy chains.

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According to Cohen, defining the entire food supply chain as essential prevents potential bureaucratic delays, “and most importantly, ensures that production and supply of food and toiletries will continue as normal, despite the current state of emergency.”

As the definitions change, the Manufacturers Association is lobbying the government to define the entire manufacturing industry as essential, even if their products are not essential in an emergency, in order to preserve the factories’ competitive power in the global marketplace. Manufacturers are concerned that lowering production capacity in line with the current Ministry of Health guidelines will cause delayed fulfillment of orders for clients abroad and lost market share.

Dr. Ron Tomer, head of the Manufacturers Association, released a statement saying, “All over the globe, factories continue to produce products, for the simple reason that if they get shut down, some of these factories will never reopen.” Companies that export more than 25% of their products are expected to be added to the list of essential services.

High-tech executives also issued a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, requesting that the industry be excused from the Ministry of Health requirements that reduce the number of employees in workplaces.

The letter warned that “the industry could be hit by a landslide, which would have devastating consequences for the economy. The high-tech train is leading the Israeli economy and decades of our efforts will disappear. Our clients will not wait until the end of the crisis, and instead will no doubt use our competitors who can work at full capacity. We are calling on the government to formally exempt the high-tech industry from the new Ministry of Health guidelines.”

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