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The Netafim irrigation systems company means to start manufacturing via a chain of plants outside Israel.

The company yesterday announced the establishment of its first plant in Mexico, at an investment of $5 million.

It expects to cut the ribbon on the new facility, which will make drip-irrigation tubing, in March 2007.

Economic Ben-Simon, chief executive of Netafim Mexico, commented that the group's sales in South America have increased sharply in the last year, mainly in Mexico, which has been marked as one of Netafim's strongest growth drivers.

Mexican sales increased 28% in 2006 compared with the year before, the company said, but refused to actually cite the figures involved, or to say whether Netafim Mexico is profitable.

Ben-Simon added that Netafim Mexico is about to finish installing irrigation systems involving 4,000 dunams of hothouses and 15,000 dunams of crop-land.