1- AN INTERVIEW WITH MANAGING DIRECTOR, KSEW
2- THE PROBLEMS OF SUGAR INDUSTRY
3- PAK-US TRADE
4- DATES: CHIEF OF ALL FRUITS IN THE WORLD
5- SPRINKLE IRRIGATION IN PAKISTAN
6- APPLE: THE SWEET GOLD OF PAKISTAN

 

DATES: THE CHIEF OF ALL FRUITS IN THE WORLD

 

Pakistan set to export 100,000 tonnes in 2002-03

 

By M.E. JALBANI, Director, EPB
Dec 02 - 15, 2002
.

 

Dates have always been held in very high esteem in almost all cultures and religions in the world. The real importance of this chief of all fruits in the world could well be gauged from the fact that date palms and dates have been referred to over twenty times in the Holy Quran and many Ahadith and sayings of the Holy Prophet. In view of high nutritive value and universal appeal of the fruit, dates have been celebrated by poets.

A POET HAS SAID: DATES AND FISH ARE AN EMPEROR'S DISH

USEFUL FRUIT: Dates are rich in carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. There is no cholesterol and no fat in dates. Dates have a great importance as a staple food as well as a dessert fruit. The fruit is generally associated with health foods. Peak season for date consumption is during the month of Ramadan. Entire Muslim community around the world currently numbering 1.6 billion people is loyal consumer of dates. Consumption is also quite high during Christmas. Similarly, the fruit enjoys enormous significance on the occasion of Divali and such festivals in other religions. In Europe and North America, the fruit is particularly preferred during the dark winter months. Usual sales of dates are spread to a period from October to April. Dates have found their way into sweets, confectionery, chocolates, baking products, preservatives, salads, sauces, and breakfast cereals. Dates also have bulk industrial uses. With advancements in food technology, newer and very useful date products are being developed, indicating fruit's bright future.

WORLD PRODUCTION: Dates are cultivated mainly in warmer regions of Asia and Africa. The fruit is also grown in some parts of Europe and the USA. Global production of this delicious fruit stood at 5.46 million metric tonnes in 2001. Egypt (1102 thousand tonnes), Iran (900 thousand tonnes), Saudi Arabia (712 thousand tonnes), Pakistan (550 thousand tonnes), Iraq (400 thousand tonnes), Algeria (370 thousand tonnes), UAE (318 thousand tonnes), Oman (260 thousand tonnes), Sudan (177 thousand tonnes), Libya (132 thousand tonnes), China (110 thousand tonnes) and Tunisia (107 thousand tonnes) are the TOP TWELVE date producing countries in the world. As is evident from the above, Pakistan ranks the 4th among them.

PAKISTAN'S VARIETIES: Rich soil, abundant sunshine and four distinct seasons make Pakistan an ideal place for cultivating a variety of agriculture crops. The above factors help in creating a very special taste in our farm produce, particularly in fruits: mangoes, apples, and dates. Makran, Khairpur (Mirs) and D.I. Khan are major date growing regions in the country. Our commercially important date varieties include Aseel, Karbala, Fasli and Kupro of Sindh; Muzawati, Begum Jangi, Jaan Swore, Kehraba and Rabai of Balochistan; Dhakki and Gulistan of NWFP and a seedless variety of Punjab.

PROCESSING CENTRE: Therhi, in district Khairpur (Mirs) occupies a central place in date processing in Pakistan. Close to one dozen date factories are established in and around this township. Quality control starts with the choice of only highest quality fruits. Date factories purchase dates for exports from progressive date growers, who take extreme care of dates right from the flowering stage. Well developed, fleshed, fully ripened and sun-dried dates are brought in plastic trays or wooden crates at the premises of the factory. On arrival, the fruit is weighed and immediately fumigated. For fumigation, usually methyl bromide, aluminum/magnesium phosphate, or agtoxin tablets are used. All vents and openings are completely sealed for adequate fumigation. Each lot is properly marked: quantity of dates in the lot, name of fumigant, date of fumigation, validity period of fumigation and date of re-fumigation, if necessary, are clearly indicated. The fruit is stored in a clean and dry area. Dates are taken from these lots as and when required. Mostly, dates are processed manually. Only skilled male and female workers perform the processing job. Dates are given a light warm-water wash in order to remove dust, sand or any other foreign matter. The fruit is then spread on large tables for manual sorting and grading.

Grading: Dates in Pakistan are usually classified according to the following grades:

(a)

Extra Class

(b)

Select - A

(c)

Select - B

(d)

Good Average Quality (GAQ)

(e)

Fair Average Quality (FAQ)

(f)

Industrial Grade

The job of date grading is quite technical in nature. Uniformity in colour and size, weight of dates per kg, percentage of discoloured, deformed, mashed, mechanically injured dates and dates with broken skin, scars and other defects, which materially affect external appearance, edibility or keeping quality of the food are some of the factors taken in account for determining the grade. A batch of workers works under the supervision of a highly experienced quality controller, who gives instructions to his team for preparing the desired grades.

PACKING: Graded dates are packed in clean, new fiber board cases lined with perforated polyethylene bags. Cross dividers are optional. All packaging material meets the standards of food grade packaging. Each carton is passed through metal detectors before and after being finally sealed.

HIGHER STANDARDS: Date factories in Therhi are maintaining international standards of cleanliness, hygiene and quality control. One of these factories has even achieved ISO 9000 certificate of quality control. The factory is totally neat and clean. The entire processing area is fly-free zone. The company has installed Glue Board fly-killers in the factory. The device attracts, catches and kills insects, including flies, wasps, mosquitoes and moths silently without the use of any poison or chemicals. Workers wear white cotton scarves on their heads to prevent falling of any hair during the work.

Pakistan has the capacity to supply fully processed high quality dates in various styles, shapes and forms, which include pitted whole dates, un-pitted whole dates, pressed date bricks, date chops, date paste in bulk as well as ready-to-distribute small boxes / jars weighing from 100 gms to 1000 gms.

PACKING DRIED DATES: As compared to fresh dates, the processing of dried dates for exports is not very much complex. The fruit is simply cleaned, graded and just packed in 70 Kg jute bags. Agha Qadirdad Khan date market, situated on the left bank of river Indus, near Baberloi, one of the earliest homes of dates in Sindh and Khairpur date market, on the national highway, are the main processing centers for dried dates.

EXPORTS FROM PAKISTAN: Pakistan appeared on the map of date exporting countries in the beginning of 80s in the last century. Today, we are the second largest exporters of this fruit in the world. Major buyers of our dates include Canada, the USA, Germany, the UK, Denmark, Australia, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Dubai, Japan, China, South Korea and North Korea etc.

Table - I
EXPORT OF DATES DURING THE LAST 4 YEARS

Year

Quantity
(Metric Tonnes)

Rate of increase / decrease as compared to previous year

1998-99

48, 612

-

1999-2000

64, 217

32.1 % Increase

2000-2001

79, 956

24.5 % Increase

2001-2002

77, 471

3.1 % Decrease

Source: Export Promotion Bureau (EPB), Government of Pakistan

As indicated in Table - I, export of dates from Pakistan stood at 48.6 thousand tonnes in 1998-99. Exports reached 64.2 thousand tonnes in 1999-2000. The figure went up to 79.95 thousand tonnes in 2000-2001, registering an increase of 24.5%. In 2001- 2002, exports declined by 3.1% to 77.46 thousand tonnes. Export decreased because date crop in 2001 was badly damaged by heavy rains at the time of harvesting of the fruit. Another reason for fall in export was the closure of Wagha border, from where most shipments of dried dates are made.

EXPORTS ESTIMATES: This year, Pakistan has bumper crop of dates. There has been record harvesting in Sindh. All date factories and individual date processors of the fruit are fully booked upto June 2003. Factories are working overtime to meet the demand. Exports of dates from Pakistan during the current fiscal year are estimated to be the highest ever and may touch 100,000 metric tonnes mark.

Table-II
WORLD IMPORT OF DATES (QUANTITY: THOUSAND METRIC TONNES)

Name of County

1998

1999

2000

World

556.8

655.3

478.6

Australia

3.7

5.3

4.1

Bangladesh

13.4

19.2

15.0

Canada

5.7

5.2

4 0

China

4.1

6.5

6.6

Hong Kong

4.5

3.8

5.9

France

22.8

20.8

23.5

Germany

6.1

6.0

6.5

India

244.0

238.2

192.6

Indonesia

9.0

10.0

13.3

Italy

6.2

6.1

6.4

Malaysia

10.0

13.8

2.8

Niger

5.8

9.0

8.6

Pakistan

30.6

23.0

29 5

Russian Federation

2.8

5.2

8.8

Spain

4.9

5.0

5.3

Sri Lanka

7.9

14.5

10.0

Turkey

5.4

3.7

8.5

U.A.E.

100.0

180.0

43.9

United Kingdom

10.1

13.5

10.4

U.S.A.

3.6

5.0

4.6

Source: FAO/UN

WORLD IMPORTS: Relevant statistics indicate that only around 10% of dates produced in the world are traded. Table-II shows that global imports of dates during the period from 1998-2000 averaged to over 560 thousand tonnes per year. India is the largest importer of this fruit in the world. The country imports around 40% of dates offered for sale. It imported 244 thousand tonnes in 1998. After India comes UAE. This country is, in fact, a global trader of dates. It imported 100 thousand tonnes dates in 1998 and 180 thousand tonnes in 1999. In 2000, its imports were 43 thousand tonnes.

IMPORTS INTO EUROPE: In Europe, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Russian Federation are major and regular buyers of dates. France has traditionally been the largest European importer of dates and an important re-exporter. Dates imported in bulk in France are treated and re- packed in Marseilles, a port city near Mediterranean countries. The place has been a centre for international trade of dates for two centuries. France purchased 22.8 thousand tonnes in 1998. After slightly sliding to 20.8 thousand tonnes in 1999 its imports went up to 23.8 thousand tonnes in 2000. The UK's imports rose from 10.7 thousand tonnes in 1998 to 13.5 thousand tonnes in 1999 falling back to 10.4 thousand tonnes in 2000. Germany's imports remained constant at around 6000 tonnes per year during the period under review and so were Italy's. Imports of Spain have grown slowly but steadily: From 4.9 thousand tonnes in 1998 the figure went up to 5000 tonnes in 1999 and 5.3 thousand tonnes in 2000. There has been a dramatic rise in imports of Russian Federation. Jumping from 2.8 thousand tonnes in 1998 to 5.2 thousand tonnes in 1999 (an increase of 85.7%), imports rose to 8.8 thousand tonnes in 2000 showing a further growth of 68%.

MAJOR MUSLIM IMPORTERS: Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia are important non-date producing Muslim countries. All of them import dates for consumption in Ramadan and for other purposes in quite substantial quantities. Among these three, Bangladesh is the largest importer. The country imported 13.4 thousand tonnes of dates in 1999. Its imports rose to 19.2 thousand tonnes in 1999. The quantity imported by it in 2000 was to the tune of 15000 tonnes. There is a continuous growth in Indonesia imports. The country imported 13.3 thousand tonnes in 2000. Some ups and downs are noticed in Malaysia's imports. It imported 2.8 thousand tonnes dates in 2000, while its imports in 1998 and 1999 were 10,000 tonnes and 13.8 thousand tonnes, respectively.

OTHER IMPORTERS: Sri Lanka is an important date importing country in our neighborhood. In 1999 the island country's imports almost doubled to 14.5 thousand tonnes from 7.9 thousand tonnes in 1998. Its imports stabilized at 10,000 tonnes in 2000. Niger is an importing country of importance in Africa. There is overall a rising trend in its imports. In 1998 its imports were 5.8 thousand tonnes, which rose to 9000 tonnes in 1999. Imports, however, slightly declined to 8.6 thousand tonnes in 2000. Turkey's imports are also growing. From 5.4 thousand tonnes in 1998, its imports swelled to 8.5 thousand tonnes in 2000.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

(i) DRY PORT AT KHAIRPUR (MIRS): Today's age is the age of competition. The world of business has changed drastically and there is every indication that it will continue to change. Markets will be more sophisticated and more demanding. A total competitive response needs to be adopted. The business winners shall have to offer best quality, sharpest price, fastest delivery and greatest flexibility. Enabling Pakistani exporters to meet the competitiveness challenge right infrastructure and right facilities are required to be provided at right places. Exports of dates from Pakistan during 2002-03 are expected to be around 90, 000 tonnes to 100, 000 tonnes. This is going to be possible in spite of the fact that there is no dry port in date growing / date processing area. As is clear from the above, Therhi has proved to be mini-Marseilles (France), as far as date processing is concerned. Khairpur (Mirs) is therefore the right place, which must have the facility of full-fledge dry port. Date is just one exportable item produce in the region. Cotton, cotton waste, various varieties of rice, rice bran, wheat, wheat bran, oil seeds, oil cakes, guar, henna leaves and powder, painted furniture, traditional garments, handicrafts, fuller's earth and minerals, raw-wool and animal hair are produced in substantial quantities in Khairpur (Mirs) and neighbouring districts. These items could be profitably exported from Khairpur dry port. The exact site of the dry port may be near the Staging Section N.L.C. between Therhi and Khairpur city. All date factories in Therhi, Karamabad and Luqman Town, Agha Qadirdad date market and Khairpur date market, are at a distance ranging from 1 mile to 15 miles from the proposed site of the dry port. Khairpur dry port will have a tremendous impact on Pakistan's export performance in the years to come. Increased exports from that dry port would mean an increase in job creation in the region. The facility will open avenues for development and provide opportunities for socio-economic activity. A new era of prosperity will take place in the Northern Sindh.

(ii) DATE PALM DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE: Pakistan is the fourth largest date producing country in the world. But there are no co-ordinated research activities concerning date palm and dates, here. Countries with much smaller number of date palms have modern Date Palm Development Institutes guiding their date farmers, date processors, and date exporters to apply latest techniques for getting better results. There have been tremendous advancements in date-culture practices and date processing methods in the world. There is a need for most modern Date Palm Development Institutes in the country. To begin with, a Date Palm Development Institute may be set up in Khairpur (Mirs), where other relevant infrastructure already exist Khairpur (Mirs) is one of the largest date growing districts in the world. The place has direct, rapid, and immediate road, rail and air links with the rest of the country. All these things make it the most suitable choice for the institute. Shah Abdul Latif University, Khairpur (Mirs) may be encouraged to take the initiative. Technical co-operation may also be obtained from FAO/UN, UNDP and major date producing countries in the Middle East, such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Oman. The Date Palm Development Institute, when established, may among other things start diploma courses for date graders, date quality controllers, date quality inspectors and date food technologists in collaboration with Sindh Board of Technical Education. These diploma holders may find ready jobs in date factories in Pakistan as well as in the Middle East.

(iii) TISSUE-CULTURE LABORATORIES: For date palm propagation, old fashioned traditional method of transplanting off shoots from the mother palm is in practice in the country. Other date producing countries are far ahead of us in this field. They are making full use of tissue-culture technology. In order to develop date palm industry in Pakistan, tissue culture laboratories may be set up in Turbat, Punjgoor, D.I. Khan, Khairpur (Mirs) and Faisalabad to produce date palm clones of high quality, high yielding and highly rain and pest resistant date varieties, including Deglet Noor of North Africa, Khalas of Saudi Arabia, Medjool of the U.S.A., Aseel, Muzawati, Dhakki of our own country.

(iv) DATE EXHIBITIONS: In 2003, Ramadan-ul-Mubarak will commence on around 28th October. The fruit is harvested in most date producing countries, other than Pakistan, in September/October. In view of these facts, global buyers of dates are keenly searching for early fresh crop supplies. Pakistan has a natural advantage. Dates ripen here as early as in the month of July. Our exporters can well make first shipments in August. Let us have these facts known to the world loudly and clearly by organizing date exhibition in Dubai and Marseilles the two renowned international market places for dates in the first week of September 2003. World importers will be pleasantly surprised to find several tonnes of 2003 crop fully processed high quality dates on display before them, while almost every where else the crop would still be in the bunches on the date palm trees.

(v) ORNAMENTAL DATE PALMS: To give Pakistan a genuine and appropriate look of a leading date producing country, ornamental date palms may be planted along all important thoroughfares, particularly along those roads, which connect airports with V.I.P. locations in major cities of the country like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad and Multan. In a way, this would serve as a live and permanent promotional activity for dates.

(vi) DATE EXPORTING CONSORTIUM: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Oman, Iran and North African date producing countries may form a date exporting consortium for organizing export of dates around the world to ensure (i) rewarding incomes for their farmers and (ii) steady supply of high quality fruit to the world consumers.