Pomegranates are an essential holiday food for Rosh Hashana, used as one of the ritual foods at the festive holiday dinner. Out of the 14,000 tons of pomegranates used by Israelis annually, 8,000 are consumed around Rosh Hashana time, the Agricultural Ministry said.
Much of Israel's pomegranate crop is exported, mostly to Europe. This year's crop is expected to yield some 60,000 tons of fruit, significantly more than the 52,000 tons harvested last year. According to the Ministry, an additional 2,000 dunams of pomegranate trees were planted this year. By 2015, Israel will produce some 65,000 tons of fruit.
Last year, Israel exported 25,500 tons of pomegranates, while this year that figure is expected to be 30,000 tons, 20% more than last year, and 50% more than two years ago.
Until very recently, pomegranate production and sales were restricted to the “Rosh Hashana market,” with most fruit sold for use around the holiday. Several years ago, Israel's Vulcani Agricultural Research Institute developed a device that allowed for easy extraction of pomegranate seeds, and as a result a new business based on production of pomegranate juices, liqueurs, yogurt, and even ice cream developed. As demand grew, so did pomegranate production.