One of Israel’s Biblical missions is to “spread light to the nations” - and now a new variety of Israel's clementine fruit, called “light,” is being swallowed up in Europe and Russia.
Israeli researchers developed and patented the new species, and citrus growers expect to export 30,000 tons of the easy-to-peel and seedless variety this season. In addition, another 40,000 tons will be raised for the local fresh fruit and industrial market. It bears the famous “Jaffa” orange trademark that made Israeli citrus fruits widely-known since the re-establishment of the State in 1948.
Exports of all citrus fruits after the fall-winter harvest will amount to nearly 200,000 tons, and the total yield of 600,000 tons will be worth approximately one billion shekels ($270 million).
Israeli citrus fruit farmers face stiff competition from Turkey and Egypt, where water is much cheaper and the wages for fruit pickers is 80 percent less than in Israel. Each of the countries exports approximately one million tons.
Israel has 180,000 dunams (45,000 acres) of citrus fruit, and the industry’s council of orchard farmers expects 3,000 more acres to be planted this year.
Council of Fruit Growers Chairman Chai Binyamini said, “We need high quality fruits in order to survive in the competitive export market. It takes several years to develop new varieties, and we have to continually find new ones to maintain our competitive edge.”
He pointed out that orchards also have environmental and economic advantages by protecting green areas and employing 25,000 people in the industry. However, farmers lack skilled pickers, he added.