The country's trade deficit in the food industry widened 6.2 percent to $140.8 million during the first quarter of the year, according to the Manufacturers Association of Israel, which said Wednesday that some $345.3m. worth of foodstuffs were imported over the first three months of the year, while just $213.5m. worth of food products manufactured locally were shipped out of the country. Among imports, said the Association's report, approximately $30.4m. worth of alcoholic drinks and vinegar were brought into the country, representing an increase of 16.5% above the numbers from the same time last year, while imports of grain-based and milk products grew 25.5% above 2006's first quarter to $33m. Additionally, noted the Association, cocoa imports rose 19.6% above last year's first quarter to $26.2m., while $17m. worth of meat and fish products were imported - a rise of 63.5%. Sugar was the only import item which the Association noted as dropping this year, decreasing 28.6% to $51.4m. from last year's first quarter. Imports from the US increased 17% to $37.7m. during the period, the report said, while imports from the European Union fell 2.2% to $196m. Imports of food products from China grew 50% to $6.9m. Despite noting the increased "trade deficit," the association also pointed out that the $213.5m. worth of food exports actually represents an increase of 16.7% above exports from 2006's first quarter, a move that is attributed to the concerted effort the country's food manufacturers have made to expand into new and developing markets. This increase, said the Association, has helped "save" the industry during the dollar's current drop in value against the shekel. First-quarter exports to the European Union grew 7.3% above last year, reaching $90.2m., while exports to the US increased 23.2% to $29.2m. Israel also exported $12.3m. worth of food products to Russia and $9m. worth to China during the first three months of the year.