Imports in consumer goods and durable products will increase by 11 percent this year with the latter boosted by weakness in the US dollar, which made the cost of big ticket items cheaper for Israelis, the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce said Wednesday. The expected growth will put the total number of imports for 2006 at $5.9 billion, an increase of $590 million over 2005, FICC chief economist Israela Miny predicted. Miny arrived at the forecast after comparing the first three quarters in 2005 with the same period in 2006, during which imports increased by 9%. In addition to the decline in the US currency, Miny cited a rise in personal income for increase. "The general economy in Israel is better," she said. The growth in 2006 reflects a 12.4% increase in consumer products such as medicines and apparel, as well as a 10% increase in durable goods, namely electronic products. Lending support to the conclusions reached by FICC, a separate study by Israeli research group BDI-Coface (Business Data Israel), found that sales of "white products" (e.g. households appliances such as refrigerators, washing and drying machines and dishwashers) increased by 4% during the first three quarters of 2006. The electronics chain Mahsane Heshmal, the firm noted, benefited from the growth, posting a 13% increase in white product sales for 2006. The study also determined, however, that Israeli consumers only exchange their household appliances for new ones on an average of once every eight years. Refrigerators and washing machines are the most frequent purchases comprising more than 79% of all white products sold in Israel, BDI-Coface said. Israeli consumers have clear-cut preferences for certain brands according to the report, with LG electronics winning squarely in the refrigerator market capturing 14%, with Amana Home coming in a close second with an 11% share. Crystal Home Appliances beat out AEG in the washing machine department grabbing 19% of the market.