Prime Minister Yair Lapid predicted Sunday that the arrival of the major French supermarket chain Carrefour in Israel will contribute to a much-needed drop in the cost of living.
The premier made his remarks as it was reported that in a separate development, the Dutch-owned international supermarket chain SPAR has also inked agreements to open branches in Israel.
Lapid said in remarks at the opening of the weekly cabinet meeting that Carrefour would bring “great reductions” in prices for basic items.
“We expect additional large companies to follow it,” Lapid said.
“It can’t be that in a rich country there are citizens who can’t make ends meet,” Lapid said, vowing to address the cost of living crisis.
Stressing that the government backs competition, Lapid warned “all the players in the market” that “those who raise prices in an irresponsible way are likely to get up in the morning and find themselves with unexpected competition.”
In March, Electra Consumer Products announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Carrefour to open 150 branches to replace its Yeinot Bitan branches. Electra bought out the Yeinot Bitan chain last year.
Carrefour products are expected to appear in Yeinot Bitan stores this summer and the first Carrefour-branded supermarkets will open at the end of the year, financial news outlet Globes reported at the time. The franchise agreement is for 20 years, with an option for another 20 years after that.
“We are sure that Carrefour’s arrival in Israel will help significantly in improving the local buying experience and will strengthen the purchasing power of the consumer, who will receive better products at more affordable prices,” Patrick Lasfargues, president of Carrefour’s international division said at the time, Globes reported.
The Carrefour deal has apparently opened the way for another international supermarket chain to set up shop in Israel.
Globes reported Sunday that Amit Zeev, recently the CEO of Yeinot Bitan-Carrefour, has independently signed a letter of intent to bring Dutch international supermarket chain SPAR to Israel.
Zeev is reportedly in negotiations to finalize the terms of an agreement for the rights to operate the chain.
SPAR has 13,623 shops in 48 countries. It has 14.5 million customers a day and had an annual turnover of 41.2 billion euros in 2021, Globes reported. The chain was established in Holland in 1932.
Israel’s dramatically rising cost of living — Tel Aviv has been named 2021’s most expensive city and the country has a current 4.5 percent projected inflation rate — has become one of the central issues in the upcoming general election.
Outrage over the rising cost of living has been growing, a decade after Israel last saw widespread social unrest on the matter.
Israel’s supermarket giants agreed earlier this month they would freeze an expected price hike on bread, following a request by Economy Minister Orna Barbivai for a reprieve.
Bread products with supervised, or limited, prices include sliced and unsliced white and dark loaves, as well as challah. The expected 20% price rise, which would have increased the cost of the common dark loaf bread from NIS 7.11 (approximately $2) to NIS 8.54 ($2.45), was set to go into effect at the beginning of last week.
The announcement came after overnight consultations on the matter held by Lapid, and the PMO said the premier would hold an “urgent” meeting on the price hike with relevant parties.