The gap between imports and exports in the food industry widened fully 22.3 percent in the first half of the year, as imports of foreign edibles grew faster than exports of Israeli food products, the Manufacturers Association of Israel said Tuesday. Exports of Israeli food products grew 3.1% over the first six months of 2005 to total $359.5 million, yet imports of foreign food products to the domestic market expanded 9.9% over the same period, to total $591.7m., the association said, noting that Israeli food exporters were "greatly concerned" by the development. Exports of processed fruit and vegetable products led the growth with a 17.8% surge since the same period last year to $124m., followed by 3.7% growth in exports of baked goods to $63.5m. But growth of Israeli good exports was held back by drops in shipments abroad of meat and poultry products, chocolates, wine and alcoholic beverages and ice cream dairy products. Chocolate exports fell 18.2% to $4.5m.; ice cream and dairy product exports fell 12.9% to $12.2m.; meat and poultry product exports fell 12% to $13.9m.; and exports of wine and alcoholic beverages fell 4% to $7.2m. Europe solidified its position as the primary destination market of the Israeli food industry, receiving $165.5m. in exports - 0.7% more than in the first half of 2005. Food exports to the US fell 1.3% to $38m., while those to Russia jumped 25% to $19.5m. and food exports to China surged 129% to $12.6m. Within the EU, growth was led by a 13.1% increase in Israeli food exports to the Netherlands, which alone accounted for $33.7m. of the total, while food exports to Germany fell 12% to $14.5m. Separately, the Israel Export Institute said Monday that it had helped six food manufacturers from northern Israel - and five more from the rest of the country - build a connection with German retail giant Galeria Kaufhof. The companies will begin supplying the retailer with products for a two-week long Mediterranean food event that the chain will kick off at the end of the month, and could become steady suppliers thereafter as well, the institute said. "We very much hope so. That is generally the dynamic of 'food week' events, which allow [the chains] to test products with their customers," said Dafna Sternfeld, director of the Institute's food division. Companies involved include date-product manufacturer Agam Hagalil; frozen and preserved fruit and vegetable producer Pri Hagalil; Nazareth-based Mahroum Sweets; Adanim Tea company; Migdal Ha'emek chocolate maker Pinukim Food Industries; and Zichron Ya'acov-based Beit El Food Industries, a maker of jams and candies. Galeria Kaufhof sells â‚¬ 3.6 billion in goods at its 142 department stores in Germany and Belgium. In the US, Israeli food exports from "at least 25 companies, most of them small," will be on display at Shoprite supermarkets during a full month around Christmas and Hanukka, Sternfeld said.