Agriculture in Israel

Agriculture in Israel

Agriculture is a major industry in Israel with the country being a net exporter of food as well as a world-leader in agricultural technologies. Israel does not have a geography which makes it appear instantly to be best suited to agriculture. Not only is more than half of the land area desert, but also the climate and water resources do not make agriculture an instantly attractive industry. Just 20% of the land area is naturally arable. [ [ Israel Peri-urban Agriculture ] ] Today agriculture represents 2.5% of total GDP and 3.6% of exports.Citeweb | url= | title=Agriculture in Israel | accessdate=2008-03-01] Agricultural workers make up about 3.7% of those employed and Israel produces 95% of its own food requirements, supplementing this by importing grain, oil seeds, meat, coffee, cocoa and sugar, although these imports are more than offset by exports. Israel is home to two unique agricultural communities, the kibbutz and moshav which developed as Jews returned to Israel from Europe in the early twentieth century.


Some of the earliest records of agriculture were in the land which now makes up Israel, making use of water resources which were and remain to this day, scarce. Modern agriculture developed in the late nineteenth century, when Jews began returning to the land. They purchased land which was mostly semi-arid, although much had been rendered untillable by deforestation, soil erosion and neglect. They set about clearing rocky fields, constructing terraces, draining swampland, reforesting, counteracting soil erosion, and washing salty land. Since independence in 1948, the total area under cultivation has increased from 408,000 acres (165,000 ha.) to 1.07 million acres (435,000 ha.), whilst the number of agricultural communities has increased from 400 to 725. Agricultural production has expanded 16 times, three times more than population growth.

Water is a resource which is in increasing demand in the country with rain falling only between November and April, with an uneven distribution across the country, from 28 inches (70 cm) in the north to less than 2 inches (5 cm) in the south. Annual renewable water resources are about 5.6 billion cubic feet (1.6 billion cu. m.), of which 75% of which is used for agriculture. Most of Israel's freshwater sources have been consequently joined to the National Water Carrier, network of pumping stations, reservoirs, canals and pipelines which transfers water from the north south. The area of irrigated farmland in the country has increased from 74,000 acres (30,000 ha) in 1948 to some 460,000 acres (186,400 ha) today.

Agriculture in Israel today

The importance of agriculture in Israel's economy has fallen over time, accounting for decreasing values of GDP. In 1979, it accounted for just under 6% of GDP, in 1985 5.1%, and today, 2.5%. [ Agriculture in Israel ] ] In 1995, there were 43,000 farm units with an average size of 13.5 hectares. 19.8% of these were smaller than 1 hectare, 75.7% were 1 to 9 hectares in size, 3.3% were between 10 and 49 hectares, 0.4% were between 50 and 190 hectares, and 0.8% were larger than 200 hectares. Of the 380,000 hectares under cultivation in 1995, 20.8% was under permanent cultivation and 79.2% under rotating cultivation. Farm units included 160,000 hectares used for activities other than cultivation. Cultivation was based mainly in the northern coastal plains, the hills of the interior, and the upper Jordan Valley.

In 2006, agricultural output in Israel fell by 0.6% following a 3.6% rise in 2005, whilst inputs for this year rose by 1.2% excluding wages. [ Microsoft Word - covers.doc ] ] Between 2004 and 2006, vegetables consistently saw the greatest outputs, accounting for around 35% of total agricultural output. Flowers made up around 20%, field crops made up around 18%, fruits (other than citrus), around 15%, and citrus fruits around 10%. In 2006, 36.7% of agricultural output was for domestic consumption, 33.9% for domestic manufacturing, and 22% for direct export. In 2006, 33% of vegetables, 27% of flowers, 16% of field crops, 15.5% of fruits other than citrus, and 9% of citrus fruits were exported.

Farm types

Most of Israel's agriculture is based around co-operative principles, which evolved during the start of the twentieth century. Two unique forms of agricultural settlements; the kibbutz, a collective community in which the means of production are communally owned and each member's work benefits all; and the moshav, a farming village where each family maintains its own household and works its own land, while purchasing and marketing are conducted co-operatively. Both communities provided a means not only to realise the dream of the pioneers to have rural communities based on social equality, co-operation and mutual aid but also to gain agricultural output in a productive means. Today, between kibbutzim and moshavim, 76% of the country's fresh produce is output, as well as many processed food products.

Agricultural produce


Due to the diversity of the land and climate across the country, Israel is able to grow a wide range of crops. Field crops grown in the country include wheat, sorghum and corn. On 215,000 hectares of land, these sorts of crops are grown, 156,000 hectares of which are winter crops.citeweb | title=Israel - Agriculture | url= | accessdate=2008-03-02] Fruit and vegetables grown include citrus, avocados, kiwis, guavas and mangoes from orchards located on the Mediterranean coastal plain. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and zucchini are grown commonly throughout the country, whilst melons are grown during winters months in the valleys. Subtropical areas in the country produce bananas and dates, whilst in the northern hills apples, pears and cherries are grown. Furthermore, grape vineyards are found across the country, as the country's wine industry has developed to become a world-player. In 1997, $107 million worth of cotton was grown in Israel with most of this sold in advance on the futures market. The crop is grown on 28,570 hectares of land, all of which is drip irrigated. 5.5 tons per hectare of raw cotton is averaged for the Acala crop whilst the Pima crop averages 5 tons per hectare, which are yields amongst the highest in the world.


Mostly exported, Israel produces vast quantities of flowers, and is placed amongst the world's largest flower-growing countries. [Citeweb | url= | title=How the flower industry operates | accessdate=2008-03-01] Flower exports in 2000 exceeded $50 million.Citeweb | url= | title=Israel as a flower exporting country | accessdate=2008-03-01] The flowers grown most commonly are wax flowers, followed by roses, which are grown on 214 hectares of land.

Meat produce

The Mediterranean Sea sees salt-water fishing whilst freshwater fishing occurs on Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). Pioneering technology being developed in the Negev desert in the south are seeing fish grown in kibbutzes and artificial lakes. In terms of poultry which makes up two thirds of meat consumption, 85% originate from moshavim. All of the Israel's milk consumption originates from dairy farms within the country with most herds consisting largely of Israel-Holsteins, a high-yielding, disease-resistant breed. Furthermore, sheep milk is exported.

Agricultural technology

Israel is a world leader in agricultural Research and Development which have led to dramatic increases in the quantity and quality of the country's crops. The drive to increase yields and crop quality has led to the development of new seed and plant varieties, as well as to innovations such as a soil-enhancing substance (vermiculite) which, when mixed with local soils, boosts crop yields, and drip irrigation.


Farm surpluses have been almost eradicated in the country with farms having production and water quotas for each crop which have stabilised prices. Production quotas apply to milk, eggs, poultry and potatoes. Government also encourage a reduction in agricultural costs trying to encourage specialised farming, and halting of production of crops for which no sufficiently profitable markets exist. The Ministry of Agriculture oversees the country's agricultural sector, including maintenance of standards of plant and animal health, agricultural planning, and research and marketing.

ee also

*Agricultural Union


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