Economy, Agriculture and Fishing
Flowers account, kibbutzim, Industrial crops, modern irrigation, sugar beets
The earliest Zionist settlers in Palestine viewed agriculture as a key ingredient of successful colonization, for meeting food needs and for fostering an ideological bond between Jews and the land. Since independence the Israeli government has promoted agriculture to attain self-sufficiency and to provide new immigrants with food and employment. Between 1948 and the late 1990s the land area under cultivation has almost tripled, in large part because of modern irrigation, mechanization, and other technologies. About 750 kibbutzim and moshavim, although occupied by only 6 percent of the total population, produce a large portion of Israel’s crops. While many Israeli Arab farmers have adopted many Israeli farming methods with considerable success, others continue to use less mechanized, more traditional methods.
Because of extensive investment in these methods and technologies, Israel meets most of its food needs through domestic production and grows several crops for export. Industrial crops (groundnuts, sugar beets, cotton), cereals, tomatoes, a wide variety of fruit, dairy products, poultry, and eggs are the main food crops. Primary exports include citrus and other fruit, cotton, avocados, and potatoes. Flowers account for almost a quarter of agricultural exports by value. The majority of Israel’s annual fish catch consists of freshwater fish raised in artificial ponds. Although in recent decades the relative importance of agriculture has declined—in terms of GDP, percentage of the population it employs, and percentage of total export revenues—it remains essential to Israel’s economy. In 1996 agriculture, including forestry and fishing, accounted for about 2 percent of the GDP and employed about 3 percent of the workforce.
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