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Israel building share and confidence in EU fish market

ISRAEL - Fish is a very important part of Israeli economy and its agriculture industry. In the past five years, the state has become one of the leading exporters of fish to the European Union, a development that has boosted its economy.

Israel now ranks among countries like China, Japan, and Singapore with the distinction of producing the best quality fish. And Israelis the only Middle Eastern nation to export product, a clear delineation from the oil industry. Israel's fish exporters have been exporting top quality fresh water fishes and marine species for some time and exports to the EU are expected to increase as Europe likes the products.

Since joining the exporting industry, the nation has gained a reputation for quality, which experts from Israel's Agriculture Ministry, credit to the methods used in Israeli aquaculture. Yitzhak Simon of the Ministry, says that Israel's fresh water bounty is bred using indoor fresh water facilities where marine biologists monitor and study their progress. With the guidance from scientific studies, the fish are bred to be healthy, which improves their quality. Many say it has the edge on Far Eastern bounty, says Mr Simon.

The boom in Israel's fish industry is supported by four major fish exporters: Agrexco, Magnooy, HaZorea, and Sundag. Although each company competes against each other, each maintain the spirit of free competition and each company has its own EU client base. The Israeli government credits the companies for keeping the fishing industry alive - they contribute heavily to the industry's $12+ million in net profit.

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However, fish from Israel does cost more than from Far Eastern markets. Commercial data shows that, Israeli exports are priced at least 10% higher than Far Eastern counterparts, although EU buyers do not consider these premium prices to be a problem. Mr Simon says that European clients are willing to pay the price in exchange for better quality.

With the recent developments in Israel's fishing sector, the country is now expected to have an alternative to its oil industry. Experts believe that with continued support, Israel's community of fish exporters can expand beyond the current four companies and this will further boost the fledgling Israeli economy. However, expansion here may have an impact on other exporters - such as Japan and China. Geographically Israel is in a better position to target the EU market. It is closer and therefore has greater opportunity to deliver fresher fish, in a shorter time. Lower transport costs are also an advantage and as the fish exporting industry in Israel develops, more contacts and client networks will be forged. There is a strong possibility that this country could monopolise the Middle Eastern fishing industry; it will be a primary player.