By Moti Bassok

Israel ran up a trade deficit of $3.068 billion in the first four months of 2001. Its deficit is 20.5% wider than for the same period of last year, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics.

In April alone, the trade deficit topped $1 billion. Imports climbed to $3.05 billion in April compared with $2 billion in exports.

The 2001 trade figures do not include trade with the Palestinian Authority. During the first third of the year, imports actually declined by 2.5% on an annual basis (excluding diamonds, boats, planes, and energy imports), following a 6% increase during the last half of 2000.

Purchasing of cars, buses and trucks declined by 33%.

Imports of consumer goods were down 8% during the last two months, following a 15% rise over the previous nine-month period.

Diamond imports totaled $503 million in April, up 2% from March.

Industrial products accounted for 78% of Israel's exports in April, with diamonds (19%) and agriculture (3%) contributing the rest. Hi-tech products comprised 54% of industrial exports.

Diamond exports averaged $453 million during March and April, down 11% compared to the average for the previous three months.

Agricultural exports totaled $474 million during the past seven months, down 14% from the same seven-month period in 1999-2000. Flower exports drooped by 28%, while fruit exports declined by "only" 7%.