Israel - Agriculture
Between 1948 and 1998, the cultivated area was expanded from 165,000 to 437,000 ha (from 408,000 to 1,075,000 acres). Principal crops and 1999 production totals (in tons) were wheat, 80,000; cotton, 53,000; peanuts, 24,000; sunflowers, 20,000; and pulses, 9,000.
Owing to the uniquely favorable soil and climatic conditions, Israel's citrus fruit has qualities of flavor and appearance commanding high prices on the world market. Total citrus production in 1999 was 869,000 tons, with grapefruit accounting for 39%. Exports of citrus in 2001 generated $123 million. Other fruits, and their 1999 production amounts (in thousands of tons) included: apples, 103; bananas, 109; avocados, 66; table grapes, 89; peaches, 47; olives, 45; plums, 20; pears, 24; and mangoes, 22.
The main forms of agricultural settlement are the kibbutz, moshav, moshav shitufi , and moshava (pl. moshavot ). In the kibbutz all property is owned jointly by the settlement on land leased from the Jewish National Fund, and work assignments, services, and social activities are determined by elected officers. Although predominantly agricultural, many kibbutzim have taken on a variety of industries, including food processing and the production of building materials. Devoted entirely to agriculture, the moshavim (workers' smallholder cooperatives) market produce and own heavy equipment, but their land is divided into separate units and worked by the members individually. This form of settlement has had special appeal to new immigrants. The moshavim shitufiyim are 47 collective villages that are similar in economic organization to the kibbutzim but whose living arrangements are more like those of the moshav. The moshavot are rural colonies, based on private enterprise. They were the principal form of 19th century settlement, and many have grown into urban communities.
New immigrants settling on the land are given wide-ranging assistance. The Jewish Agency, the executive arm of the World Zionist Organization, absorbs many of the initial costs; agricultural credits are extended on a preferential basis, and equipment, seeds, livestock, and work animals are supplied at low cost.
Israeli agriculture emphasizes maximum utilization of irrigation and the use of modern techniques to increase yields. A national irrigation system distributed water to 199,000 ha (491,700 acres) in 1998, down from 219,000 ha (541,100 acres) in 1986 but still far exceeding the 30,000 ha (74,000 acres) served in 1948. Water is transported via pipeline from the Sea of Galilee to the northern Negev. More than 90% of Israel's subterranean water supply is being exploited. Agriculture accounts for over 60% of Israel's water consumption.