Iranian Date Product
The date crop in Iran for all species (dried, semi-dried and fresh) during the farming year 1999-2000 was over one million tons. Iran shares 20 percent or so of the world date production and is the largest date producer in the world.
Iran produces 200,000 tons of dried date, 600,000 tons of semi-dried or fresh-to-dry date, and 200,000 tons of fresh date in its 180,000 hectares of palm groves mostly situated in the provinces of Kerman, Bushehr, Khuzestan, Fars, Sistan-Baluchestan, Yazd, Kermanshah, Hormozgan and Semnan.
Care and Harvest of Date in Iran
Date harvest in Iran is mainly traditional(1) except for the Sayer date of Khuzestan, which is completely industrial(2) and also part of the Mazafati (majestic) date of Kerman, which is partially industrial.
It should be noted that during the recent years, due to a new export market for Bushehr Province's date, part of the date crop is harvested industrially. Probably this method will be expanded in the province in the future.
Date Processing and Packaging Industry in Iran
The date processing and packaging industry is mainly concentrated in the following provinces:
Khuzestan Province has concentrated processing and packaging industry mainly on its Sayer product, which is a semi-dried date. As far as production is concerned, this product falls in two packaging methods: Balak and Consumer Packaging.
After the revolution, using governmental support, Bushehr Province, likewise, enjoyed the creation of a number of capital-intensive processing and packaging units for dates and the by-products. However, due to the aforementioned reasons cited for Khuzestan Province, these units failed to make great achievements.
Before the victory of Islamic Revolution a processing and packaging unit was established for Mazafati date but could not reap the expected results for the already mentioned reasons. However, in recent years, the private sector pushed this industry forward and new date processing and packaging units were established one after another. It is hoped that these efforts will be profitable in the future.
Overseas Consumer Markets of Iranian Date and Rivals
The consumer markets of Iranian date are classified in two groups of fresh fruits and dried fruits.
Dried and Fresh-to-Dried Date
Types of Products, Consumer Markets and Rivals
In the traditional method, the crop is mainly harvested and placed in 1-3 kg cartons or in 20-50 kg gunnysacks. This method uses mostly the native species of Kabkab, Khasseh, Shavi, Shahani, Zahedi and Ghasb. These dates are first exported to Dubai, where they are transported to the Islamic countries consumer markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Meanwhile, Central Asian republics are ardent consumers of Iranian date in small packages.
Transported to the packaging units, the industrially harvested stone date, is disinfected, processed, sorted and packaged in 50 gr. to 1000 gr. packs. This type of packaging uses almost all species of date such as the Piarom, Rabi, Sayer, Kabkab, Shavi, Zahedi, etc. The dried date is moistened a little bit before packaging. Thanks to the easy storage of these dates and the possibility of transporting them in ordinary containers (not refrigerated), coupled with private sector facilities, these packages have captured consumer markets across the world. The number of these markets increases constantly. The major customers of Iranian dates are Muslim nations including Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, and Central Asian states, Russia, Ukraine, and some Northern Europe countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. Iran's main rivals for the production of semi-dried stone date in small packages, are Algeria and Tunisia. These countries have made enormous investment and conducted wise marketing in the European countries enabling them to catch the lion's share of the date market. Next in ranking, are Saudi Arabia and Egypt. They both have had notable marketing during the recent years and made good progress in their date exports. The United States is another topnotch producer and exporter of dates with fixed consumer markets in Northern America and part of the world markets.
It should be noted that Marseilles Port in France, was one of the dried and semi-dried date small-package processing and packaging centers in the past but gradually this industry was transferred to date producing countries - Algeria and Tunisia - which had close relations with France. These two countries now enjoy the ownership of date processing and packaging industry with the investment of French companies.
Once severely damaged during the war, the date processing and packaging industry recently sought new markets in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and East European countries. During these years, Iran exported 30-40 thousand tons of date.
It should be noted that industrially harvested Sayer date in the processing and packaging unit is disinfected, stoned (stone is removed), sorted, cleaned and packaged in bulk(3) (see footnote) method in cartons of over 10 kg. Then they are transported to foodstuff factories or exported to European countries including England, German, the Netherlands, Sweden, North American countries to Canada and to US, and recently to Australia and New Zealand, and to a number of Eastern Europe states such as Poland and Russia.
Future of Iranian Date Market and Ways of Expanding It
The following table shows the production and export of main dried fruits including raisins, pistachios and dates in the last farming year:
As the figures above show there is no sound proportion between production and exports. For instance, if we put date consumption in Iran at 100-200 thousand tons, a large portion of exportable date is used unnecessarily in this country. The very wide gap between the volume of production and export calls for further attention from the responsible authorities. Also it is necessary to initiate new consumer markets, introduce Iranian products in foreign markets on one hand, and on the other hand, improve the agricultural, sanitary, processing and packaging state in the groves and consumer markets equally. Preventing unnecessary domestic date consumption and export promotion will reserve a deserving share of world date market for our nation.
3.Bulk packaging: The date cartons, measuring 10 kilograms or more, are carried to foodstuffs manufacturing factories or shipped to foreign customers to be packaged and re-exported.Consumer package is, however, smaller and measures lees than three kilograms. It is used by the marginal consumer.