EghtesadOnline: It has been a good year for Iranian dates. So say the statistics.
Dates production reached 1.2 million tons in the Iranian year ending March 2017, making Iran the second largest cultivator of the sweet product in the world, after Egypt. Iran was also ranked as the top exporter, beating strong exporters such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.
But while the quantity of exports has grown, the same cannot be said about the revenues earned from exports.
According to Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, Iran exported 209,300 tons of dates, about 15% of its total production, valued at $208.4 million in the year ending March 2017, which was 22.4% more than the previous year in terms of weight, but 10.6% less in terms of value, Financial Tribune reported.
Each ton of Iranian dates was sold at an average price of $996, showing a considerable decrease from the average of $1,363 per ton in the previous year. The most expensive type of date, Piarom, was sold at $2,295 per ton.
A comparison with Tunisia shows that while the North African country ranks as the seventh largest producer of dates in the world, it was the third biggest exporter last year, sharing the spot with Saudi Arabia. This indicates the huge potential for Iran in increasing its global export and gaining a larger share in the global market for the product.
Ali Mohammad Samimi, a board member of the National Association of Iranian Dates, believes that what’s lacking are large companies willing to invest on dates exports.
“The existing companies are mostly small and financially incapable of marketing the Iranian dates on a global scale,” he told Financial Tribune’s sister newspaper, Donya-e-Eqtesad.
“The date industry is currently not very profitable and requires vast global marketing to increase profitability. Small companies cannot afford that.”
What’s more, Iranian dates are mostly exported in bulk, missing on the additional value gained by packaging as well as from date byproducts.
According to Samimi, no company has so far invested sufficiently on marketing the byproducts of Iranian dates in other countries.
“This has prompted most importing countries to show interest only in bulk imports,” he said.
India was the biggest importer of Iranian dates in the fiscal 2016-17. The country imported $32.2 million worth of dates from Iran, accounting for 15.45% of Iran’s total date exports. Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the UAE and Turkey were other top importers, accounting for 11%, 10%, 9% and 7% respectively.
Iran has a preferential tariff agreement with Turkey and Pakistan for dates export. But Samimi believes this preferential tariff is still too high and must be reduced or eliminated altogether.
According to the official, improving cultivation techniques and water efficiency in farming, providing refrigerating equipment to farmers for properly storing their products and upgrading packaging and processing machinery are some of the steps required for expanding date production.
Iran exports seven varieties of dates, about 40% of which are Mazafati dates, in both fresh and dried form. Kerman, Sistan-Baluchestan, Bushehr, Hormozgan, Fars, Khuzestan and Yazd are major date cultivating provinces of Iran.