Consumption of dairy products rises to about three times the normal weekly level in the run-up to the Shavuot holiday, while the consumption of basic white cheeses used in making cakes jumping five-fold, the Dairy Board said Wednesday. "During the Shavuot season, consumption of dairy products reaches its peak for the year," concurred Israel Cattle Farmers Association Secretary Meir Baron. The board added that in 2005 per capita dairy consumption rose to the equivalent of 167.4 liters of milk from 166 liters the year before, following a decade of stability. "Each year the level of consumption of dairy products is fairly static, and is not among the highest in the world," commented Baron, stressing nonetheless that "Israeli dairies are considered the best in the world" in terms of milk production per cow, surpassing even the "world famous" Dutch dairy industry. Figures released by the Central Bureau of Statistics this week supported Baron's claim, indicating that the average Israeli milch cow produced 10,000 liters of the beverage in 2003, while in the Netherlands 8,193 liters are produced per head of dairy cattle; 8,162 in the US; 5,635 in Spain; 4,913 in Australia; 3,450 in New Zealand; and 6,455 in the European Union, as a whole. "The continuing rise in the amount of milk [per cow] in Israel is the result of research and development efforts, genetic [factors], and efforts to improve the cows' nutrition and guidance of dairy farmers, as well as significant investment in the cows' sheds and living conditions," Baron said. Despite more difficult climatic and environmental conditions, raw Israeli cow milk also contains more than 10% more fat and protein than the Dutch average, which is "one of the indices influencing the quality of the milk, its taste and production efficiency," Baron added. Israeli milk also now contains 10% more protein and 20% more fat in comparison with a decade ago, he said, calling it "an accomplishment of international proportions." The country's most productive milch cow last year was a Noa of Moshav Zippori, which boasted 19,911 kg., while the most productive herd - belonging to Kibbutz Habonim - produced 12,852 kg. per cow, the Cattle Farmers Association said. Baron called on the government to continue protecting dairy farmers - "one of the most beautiful [agricultural] sectors, spread throughout the country" - from imports of foreign cheeses, butter and milk powder, which he said were a threat to the farmers' livelihood. CBS numbers indicate that the supply of milk per capita in Israel was 182.8 liters in 2003, against nearly 254 liters in both Greece and the US, 168.4 liters in Spain, 111.7 liters in Lebanon, 82.3 liters in Jordan, and 59.7 liters in Egypt. In any event, Israel is the world leader in consumption of soft cheeses, with an average 12 kilograms per capita purchased yearly, according to the Dairy Board. Last year Israeli consumers spent NIS 7.3 billion on milk products, accounting for 2.2 percent of total household spending and 13% of total spending on food. Of the 1.22 billion liters of milk produced in Israel in 2005, fully 1.18 billion liters were cow milk, 23.6 million liters were sheep milk and 18.3 million liters were goat milk, the CBS said. One-third of the country's cow milk was sold in its basic liquid form; 32% was used for the production of white cheeses; 21% was used to make hard or processed cheeses; 13% was sold in the form of yogurt products and puddings; and 1% was used for butter, the board said. The milk supply available to the Israeli public rose 1.6% in 2005 to 185 liters per person, of which 179 liters were cow milk and six were goat milk, according to the CBS. The bureau added that the price of pasteurized milk rose 4.2%, which the Dairy Board attributed to the growing cost of inputs, particularly fodder.