Food sales in Israel in 2005 rose by 1.2% in real terms to NIS43bn (US$934.78m), according to Roni Kobrovsky, chairman of the Food Division at the Manufacturers Association of Israel.

Kobrovsky, president of the Central Bottling Company (Coca Cola Israel), added that food exports in 2005 rose by 14.2% to US$683m, and the import of food products was up 6.5% reaching US$1.05bln, creating a food import/export deficit of US$365m.

He estimated that in 2006, food sales on the local market will rise by 3% to NIS42bn, and the export of food products in 2006 will rise by 7%, to US$730m.

The food industry now employs a total number of nearly 57,000 people. Food processors invested NIS893m in importing new equipment, a record sum for the decade. Kobrovsky added that manufacturers introduced some 3,000 new products in 2005, mostly so-called “health” foods, a category in which the industry invested NIS350m.