Country Focus Data: Israel

by Mindy Dake
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In the Middle East bordering the Mediterranean Sea, Israel's capital is Jerusalem.
Demography: Population 5.4 million (July 1995 estimate), 89% urban; Hebrew (official), Arabic, English languages; Judaism (82%), Islam (14%), Christian (2%) religions. Note: Data do not include autonomous Palestinian Authority region.
Geography: Diverse, but temperate climate; hot and dry in southern and eastern desert areas; semi-tropical in west.
Government: Republic. Chief of state is President Ezer Weizman, head of government is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Official agricultural agencies: Ministry of Agriculture.
Economy: Israel has a market economy. Substantial government involvement in many economic sectors, through state-owned enterprises, price controls and restrictions on private-sector imports, gradually is declining.
Annual economic growth since 1990 has averaged about 5.5%; as measured by the Consumer Price Index, inflation in 1994 was 14.5%, but dropped to 8.1% in 1995, at the low end of the government's 8% to 11% target. Two major positive factors affecting Israel's economy in the past few years are the influx of nearly 600,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union and the peace process.
Israel is largely self-sufficient in food production except for grains. Agriculture accounts for about 2.5% of gross domestic product and 3.5% of the labor force.
G.D.P. per capita: U.S.$13,880; growth rate 6.8% (both 1994 estimates).
Currency: New Israeli shekel. Aug. 19, 1996 exchange rate: 3.15 new Israeli shekels per U.S. dollar.
Exports: U.S.$16.2 billion (f.o.b. 1994), agricultural products, cut diamonds, machinery; primary partners, E.U., Japan, U.S.
Imports: U.S.$22.5 billion (c.i.f. 1994), grain, military equipment, oil, consumer goods; primary partners, E.U., Japan, U.S.
Major agricultural crops/products: Wheat, fruits and vegetables.
Wheat: Wheat is Israel's only significant grain crop, and annual production depends heavily on rainfall. The most recent five-year average production was 193,000 tonnes, in a range of 70,000 in 1994-95 to 250,000 in 1995-96. Consumption in the same period averaged 1.12 million tonnes.
Coarse grains: Israel does not produce its own coarse grains and depends on imports for grain and most nongrain feed ingredients. The proportions of barley, maize and wheat for feed imported fluctuate depending on price relationships.
Transportation: Railroads, 520 km, all 1.435-meter gauge; 13,461 km of highways, all paved; major grain ports are Ashdod and Haifa.