The State of Israel grows most of its own produce and animal products including fruits, vegetables, eggs, poultry, milk, meat and more. About 1 million acres in the country is utilized for agricultural purposes. The Ministry of Agriculture reports in 1955, 1 farmer in Israel produced food for 15 residents compared with one farmer who now feeds 100 residents. The demand continues to increase and the production per dunam (equivalent to 0.25 acres) worldwide grows exponentially with the population.
The rate of growth in agricultural production in Israel is about 19% despite difficult weather conditions, arid conditions over 2/3 of the land and water shortage. Food security is on ongoing concern and Israel is one of the world leaders in agricultural innovation. Drip irrigation is used throughout the country and 60% of water for crops is marginal or non-potable from sources such as treated wastewater and brackish water.
Another innovation is the ongoing development of hardy strains of seeds which can withstand hot, arid conditions. Producing hybrid plants and seeds which are disease resistant is on ongoing goal of researchers. In 1973, Israeli scientists developed a variety of tomato which ripens more slowly in hot weather. In 2020, a hybrid lemon, the Ayelet variety, has been cultivated which is seedless. Trials of artificial pollination of almond trees in 2019 have been successful and will soon be put into use in California.
The leading agricultural sectors with highest production value are fruit and vegetable crops, poultry and beef. Israel has the highest production of milk per cow in the world! Field crops in include wheat, sorghum, corn, wheat, sunflowers and cotton, many of which grow during the winter months. Apples, grapes, peaches, mangoes, plums, dates, pears and apricots are the top fruits, along with mandarins, oranges, grapefruits and lemons. The main vegetables grown in Israel are tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and herbs.
Israel ranks 22nd in world for production of olives with 81,000 acres of orchards producing around 16,000 tons of extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) every year. Most of the oil produced is for domestic use, while about 1,000 tons is exported, mainly to the United States. Almonds are also another important crop with 6,200 tons of almond kernels were harvested from 11,120 acres.
Around 15% overall agricultural production is designated for export markets. In 2015, the value of exports of fresh produce was NIS 4.4 billion (about $1.3B), accounting for less than 1.5% of Israel’s GDP (gross domestic product). Main exports include dates, peppers, avocados, carrots, flowers and herbs to markets mainly in Europe, Russia, USA and the Far East.
Most crops are grown in rural settlements throughout the State of Israel. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, these settlements include kibbutz, workers’ moshav, cooperative moshav, community settlement or other rural-village settlement with around 70% located in peripheral regions. Currently there are around 900 settlements in Israel (2020), 48% are moshavim.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs describes the kibbutz as a unique form of collective community based on a socialist ideology and the promotion of the Zionist idea while the members of the moshav preserve a relatively large degree of economic autonomy, but they do share various elements of mutual assistance. Most kibbutz are laid out like a traditional farm while the moshav favors placing the structures and buildings in the center of the property while crops fan out in a circular fashion.
As you travel through the Land of Israel, you will see beautiful green fields with growing crops and thriving livestock which demonstrate the ongoing commitment of the people to provide for themselves in daunting conditions as well as making agricultural advancements which benefit the world.