Kosher for Pessah wine exports to Asia are on the rise, but exports to North America and Europe have suffered in the pre-Pessah period amid increased competition from local wine providers, the Manufacturers Association of Israel reported ahead of the holiday. The general outlook for Israeli wine exports, however, remained optimistic. Overall kosher for Pessah wine exports fell 9 percent to $7 million between December 2005 and March 2006 from the previous year, but wine exports to Asia increased by 36% to $140,000 in the first quarter of 2006, the organization said. According to the Manufacturers' Association, this year, 20,000 kosher for Pessah bottles of wine were sent to places such as Thailand, India and Nepal for Israeli backpackers and travelers - ordered mainly on behalf of the local Chabads - compared with 18,000 last year. Pessah wine exports to North America, however, fell 3% to $2.7m. , while exports to Europe fell 6.5% to $1.7m. The Association attributed the decline to the fact that many wine providers abroad also produce kosher for Pessah wine, whereas it previously was produced mainly in Israel and California. Today, kosher wines are produced on nearly every continent with more than 450 kosher wines to choose from originating from California, New York, Argentina, Australia, Chile, France (including Alsace), Hungary, Israel, Italy, Portugal, South Africa and Spain. "There is increased competition from local wine producers of kosher wines outside of Israel as much of their produce is simple and cheap, compared with Israeli wines", Michael Schneiderman, marketing, sales & export director of Carmel Winery told The Jerusalem Post. Still, Carmel, the largest wine producer in Israel, said it did not experience a downturn in Pessah wine export sales compared with last year. "This year we have seen an increase in export sales to North America, while Europe sales remained the same," Schneiderman said. He noted that Carmel's export sales represented 13% of total sales, serving 40 countries. The winery enjoys a market share of between 40% and 50% of the estimated NIS 800m. wine market in Israel. Similarly, Golan Heights Winery, said it was not affected by a fall in export sales. "There is fierce competition in the US, given that most kosher wines sold in the US are not Israeli wines," said Anat Rushansky, marketing director for the Golan Heights Winery, which exports 20% of its total sales to 30 countries, including the US, Europe, Japan, Mexico and Russia. "We expect an increase in export sales by the end of this year, led by sales to the UK and France." Today, it is estimated that 7,500 acres of vineyards around Israel produce about 50,000 tons of grapes a year, with nearly 80% of the wines produced being dry red and white types. The local market has been growing more than 10% a year in the past few years. The country's wine exports total over $13m. a year, according to the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce but wine producers are expecting to increase that total. A marketing campaign, which started this year with Israel's wine industry working with the government, plans to promote Israeli wine generically across America. A five-year, multimillion-dollar program is to emphasize the quality of table wines at various price levels and to promote the perception that they are Israeli and Eastern Mediterranean and not "the stereotype Jewish, kosher, sacramental [wine]," said Michal Neeman of the Israel Export and International Cooperation Institute's food and beverage division. Regarding domestic sales of wine and spirits in pre-Pessah shopping, there was an increase by 10% to NIS 250m. over last Rosh Hashana sales, according to estimates by the FICC. This year, the group noted, there was a remarkable increase of sales of middle-range wines. The FICC added that wine imports rose 15%, but mainly of wines that are made from the types of grapes that are seldom found in Israel.