Consumers and businesses in the UK are talking more and more about carbon emissions and food miles. It has become an emotive political issue and some are calling for a halt to food imports. Customers are not yet asking us about our green credentials, but we believe they will do before long.
I'm satisfied that Agrexco as a company has played its part to address carbon emissions and cut energy use. And I think consumers in the UK who worry about food miles can continue to buy Israeli produce without any qualms.
We import about 160,000t of fresh produce to the UK every year from our 2000 Israeli growers. We ship in everything from avocados and sweet potatoes to winter strawberries, spring onions and dragon fruit. But less and less of it travels by air.
That's because Agrexco has taken the lead in cutting fuel use with its investment in two purpose-built ships to bring produce from Ashdod to Marseille. Eight years ago, when Agrexco was much smaller, we did about 80,000t by air. Now we've doubled our export volumes, but cut air shipments to 35,000t.
Improvements in fruit and vegetable varieties have lengthened their shelf-life and raised quality. Together with investment in the cooling chain from farm to port and on to the final customer, it has allowed us to move the majority of our products by sea, including seven varieties of herbs and even strawberries.
It has replaced the equivalent of 450 fully loaded flights by Boeing 747 and 4500 flying hours each year.
The vessels have state-of-the-art engines, which allow them to adjust their fuel consumption according to their speed, using about 35% less fuel. It also cuts transport costs by about 70% if we use the boat and truck produce around Europe from Marseille.
So it makes sense for British shoppers to buy fruit, vegetables and flowers from Israel.
The country is quite close to the UK, and it's an efficient place to grow crops.
It bridges both arid and the humid zones, so apart from some basil crops in winter, growers don't need to use any heating because of the climate.
And our growers use greenhouses or polytunnels for many of their crops, both to make the most of the winter sun, and to cut pest risk. That means we use fewer chemicals. In fact fertiliser is the only product used to grow many of our crops.