Israel's Ministry of Agriculture plans to sell the government's 50% holding in Agrexco, the country's largest agricultural export company. According to agriculture minister Shalom Simhon, the privatisation of Agrexco calls also for the sale of Tnuva's 25% stake at the company. Agrexco by-laws stipulate that the government must sell its shares to the boards, which are statutory bodies, at their nominal price of one Shekel.

The agricultural production boards - the Flower Board, the Vegetable Board and the Fruit Board, which together own 25% shares of Agrexco - have the right of first refusal to the government's shares. Agrexco, which plans to export during the 2001/2002 season 250,000 tonnes of fresh and processed produce, expects sales to amount to US$550m.

The company, which gets over 200 different products from nearly 4,000 farmers, has almost no assets, except for a freight company estimated to be worth between US$30m and US$50m upon privatisation. Agrexco's main assets are its reputation, the long-term export agreements with buyers in Europe, the USA and the Far East, warehouses in Israel and abroad and its prestigious Carmel brand.

By Aaron Priel, just-food.com correspondent