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Israeli pomegranate production to increase
“We suffered from quality issues that limited yields last year,” said Yoav Nakash of Galil Export. “This year, yields have been quite good, quality has been fine and fruit has a nice, red colour.” Because this year's fruit has largely been free of the quality problems from last year, there's more suitable for sale. Nakash estimates that production this season will increase by between 10 and 20 percent over that of last season. Depending on how the final pack-out goes, the nation's production could be between 20,000 and 23,000 tons. In addition to more fruit, he added that fruit has been bigger, which will sell well on the Russian market.
“About 35 percent of our exports go to Russia, and they mostly take our fruit that's between 700 grams and 1 kilogram,” explained Nakash. European buyers prefer smaller fruit, so the fruit that is too big to sell in Europe is shipped to Russia. That should help Israeli exporters compete with Turkish exporters, who have made gains with their pomegranate exports. Though the quality of Turkish fruit has improved over the last few years, the market for pomegranates has grown such that there's enough business for everyone.
“We have an advantage over Turkey in that we can keep our product longer,” said Nakash. “But consumption in Europe has also increased because more consumers know about the health benefits of pomegranates, so that accommodates everyone.” This year's bigger fruit can also help Israeli shippers expand into Asia, as buyers there also tend to go for larger-sized fruit.
Galil is looking to take advantage of those Asian markets, with special emphasis on China, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka. That pomegranates travel well is a big advantage is reaching those markets, which could take up to six weeks to reach by sea. In preparation, Galil has about doubled its production every year for the past three years. While Galil packed and shipped around 3,000 tons of pomegranates last year, with the help of new growers joining the cooperative, Galil is set to export 5,000 tons of fruit this year. The company will ship that fruit until February in two grades: premium, which is the top grade, and vital.
In addition to expanding their pomegranate program, Galil has high hopes for their medjool date program. Because dates are sweet and have many health benefits, their popularity is growing with consumers. That the product can be stored for up to two years gives exporters much flexibility when it comes to marketing the product in new markets.
“I think the date market is just beginning, and I think there's a lot we can do with medjool dates,” said Nakash. “We will sell 1,000 tons of dates this year, and the plan is to increase that to 4,000 tons in five years.”
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