Citrus exports from Israel have plummeted by almost 75% since the 1980s when the country exported about 1.8 million tons of oranges a year. According to an article written by Ivan Levingston for Bloomberg, this figure indicates that Israel has left its agrarian roots behind and has become a technological power.
The change in strategy was due to a number of economic factors, including the strengthening of the national currency, which made Israeli products less competitive, the country's poor water supply, which raised the cost of crops, as well as the rise in salaries.
Today, farmworkers in Israel charge about US $ 2,200. Labor in Israel costs 10 times more than in neighboring countries, such as Egypt, Turkey, and Morocco. "Their labor and water are very cheap, and their currency is better for exporters. We cannot compete with them," said Nitzan Rottman of the Ministry of Agriculture of Israel, who is responsible for overseeing citrus cultivation.
As a result, agricultural products account for only 2% of all of Israel's exports. The plains and hills near Tel Aviv are used to build shopping centers, apartment blocks, and offices for the growing ranks of software designers and pharmaceutical researchers."The land in central Israel is so expensive that most of the orchards have been cut down," Zehavi said.
Today, only 1% of Israeli citizens live from agriculture, compared to 18% in 1958. In turn, the workforce in the technology sector skyrocketed, going from almost zero to 10% during the same period.
This increase helped double service exports since 2008, which in 2019 exceeded $ 50 billion dollars. Service exports are expected to exceed exports of goods in 2020 for the first time in Israel's history.