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Iranian Date and Its Market in the World

شنبه 16 اسفند 1393 ساعت 14:25

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
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.
Bulk Processing and Packaging Workshops of Sayer Date in Khuzestan: These workshops are 60 years old. This method was founded upon feasibility studies carried out by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and with the assistance of importing countries (England and USA) over half a century ago. The method made good progress in a way that before the outbreak of Iran-Iraq war the total output of these workshops amounted to 40-50 thousand tons per year. After the war and due to serious damages imposed on Abadan and Khorramshahr, where these workshops were mainly situated, coupled with the darkening of relations with the western countries (main consumers of dates), the processing and packaging industry suffered weaknesses and shortcomings. During recent years, post-war reconstruction policies revived these industries and some of them enjoy a good quality. It should be noted that these workshops mainly package Sayer stoneless dates in big cartons (above 10 kg) for export to Western countries, where they are used as raw material at foodstuff factories.
Consumer Packages Processing and Packaging Workshops of Sayer Date in Khuzestan: After the revolution a number of capital-intensive date processing and packaging units came to being in Khuzestan Province under state-run companies or using governmental subsidies. However, because of weak marketing and lack of sufficient feasibility studies the products of these units could not find their way into the world markets. As a matter of fact, to date, no opportunity has risen to make the best use of their capacities.

Bushehr Province
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.

Kerman Province
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.

Fresh Date
Type of Product and Conditions of Storing: Mazafati is one major species of fresh date with huge annual yield. The largest portion of this product is consumed in domestic markets, but due to production growth during the recent years steps have been taken for exporting this product.
Processing and Type of Packaging Mazafati Date: Mazafati date is mainly packaged with the traditional method. Immediately after harvesting in the groves the product is packed in small cartons (1 kg) and transported to air-conditioned warehouses. A small part of the crop is harvested using the industrial method and kept in cold storage from where they are to be carried to the processing workshops at a proper time for processing and packaging.
Consumer Markets of Mazafati Date: North European countries including England, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Germany, the Persian Gulf littoral states, the North American countries, especially Canada, East Asian countries plus Australia are major importers of Iranian Mazafati date. As a matter of fact Iranians living abroad are among the major consumers of the Mazafati date. Due to many ups and downs in the export of this product, it does not have a stable and permanent market in the overseas. There are no clear-cut statistics available from the Customs documents on the volume of export of this product, however; it is estimated that Mazafati date enjoys 20 percent of the nation's total export of dates.

Dried and Fresh-to-Dried Date
Consumable Species and Conditions of Keeping Date: Almost all of the Sayer crop and part of the Zahedi date harvested in Khuzestan Province are processed in Packaging workshops. The Kabkab, Khasseh, Zahedi and Shavi dates of Bushehr and Fars as well as the Piarom and Ghasb dates of Kerman plus the Rabi date of Sistan-Baluchestan are processed for export. The dried and fresh-to-dried (semi-dried) dates, which naturally lack moisture, are easily storable in cool storage. On the other hand, they are subject to stored food pest thus necessitating on-time pesticide spraying, disinfecting and cleanliness of the store.

Types of Products, Consumer Markets and Rivals
Stone Date: When packaging stone dates (drupe), both dried and semi-dried species are used. This packaging uses both traditional and industrial methods.
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.
Sayer Stoneless Date: Processing Sayer stoneless dates began some 60 years ago as a result of studies carried out by FAO in date-growing countries in the Middle East, namely Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. The project was assisted and co-sponsored by England and USA. These customers of date helped the development of the processing and packaging industry in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. This method of production and packaging was gradually formulated in these countries and made outstanding growth, in a way that before the outbreak of Iraq imposed war the stoneless date production of these nations amounted to over 100,000 tons per year. After the war date production grew weaker and a few years later with the US economic sanctions, date exports dwindled to almost 10,000 tons per year. The United States, a major importer of Sayer stoneless date faced increasing domestic demand for this product and doubled its imports from Pakistan.
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.

Footnote
1.Industrial harvest: It is a method of harvest in which the harvested date is poured into wooden boxes, and processing and final packaging.
2.Traditional harvest: It is a method of harvest in which the harvested date is poured into sacks or consumer cartons to be transported to consumer markets.
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.

Iranian exporter of Iranian dry fruits, Iranian dates fruit in Iran

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