Kashrut chief: The rea­sons be­hind higher fes­ti­val prices

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY DANIEL SUGARMAN

THE HEAD of the Lon­don Beth Din’s kashrut divi­sion has de­nied that higher prices at Pe­sach are a re­sult of in­creased su­per­vi­sion costs for fes­ti­val items.

“Gen­er­ally we do not charge a fee for Pe­sach prod­ucts,” Rabbi Jeremy Conway said.

“If some­body de­cides they’re go­ing to pro­duce some bis­cuits or cakes for Pe­sach, we wouldn’t make any charge other than for the shomer they have to have in place.

“Very of­ten they have a shomer there dur­ing the year as well, so there’s no ex­tra cost.

“But if they don’t have [a shomer] or pro­duce it by batch, then we would charge for the cost of the shomer, which would be some­thing like £20 an hour or £200 a day, so max­i­mum we’re not talk­ing about huge fig­ures.”

Rabbi Conway also dis­cussed the de­cline in British man­u­fac­ture of kosher for Passover prod­ucts, mak­ing ref-

Rabbi Jeremy Conway er­ence to a well-known kosher bak­ery which “used to kasher for Pe­sach and pro­duce their own range of cakes and bis­cuits. Even­tu­ally they stopped do­ing it. They told me ‘it’s just not worth­while’.”

He pointed out that ac­cord­ing to tra­di­tion, Ashke­nazi Jews do not bake with flour for Pe­sach, us­ing matzah meal in­stead.

“The fa­mous sub­sti­tute in­gre­di­ents like ground al­monds and des­ic­cated co­conut, choco­late, sugar, are many times more ex­pen­sive than flour. “This baker told me his cal­cu­la­tion is that the in­gre­di­ents for Pe­sach cost 15 times the nor­mal price. A cake is 95 per cent flour nor­mally, so it’s very, very cheap. And if he sells it for three or four pounds, there’s a great el­e­ment of profit.

“We did an ex­er­cise and had a look at what ground al­monds cost — not for Pe­sach, just from Tesco to­day —and what flour costs from Tesco to­day. The ground al­monds are 28 times the price. And they [man­u­fac­tur­ers] don’t put the price of Pe­sach cakes up by 28 times. They may dou­ble it or triple it. And the poor man­u­fac­turer gets a whole host of com­plaints. The truth of the mat­ter is that the profit el­e­ment on a reg­u­lar cake is much greater than the profit el­e­ment on a Pe­sach cake.

“Now you’ve got cakes com­ing from Osem in Is­rael and from Amer­ica, lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers just can’t com­pete. So there is very lit­tle in terms of fin­ished prod­ucts which are made in the UK.

Rabbi Conway cited an­other ex­am­ple of a well known pre­serves com­pany “who for decades made prod­ucts for Pe­sach. Last year they didn’t pro­duce. They don’t do them any­more.”

For a mar­ket of half a per cent of the na­tional pop­u­la­tion “is it worth your while for these ex­tra few hun­dred, even few thousand jars of jam? It’s not the cost of shomer, it’s the has­sle of the clean­ing process and the change of in­gre­di­ents.

“In years gone by, that com­pany had the mar­ket, there was no com­pe­ti­tion.

“Now other jams have come in from Is­rael and Amer­ica and France, so it’s not worth­while for them to man­u­fac­ture.”

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