EghtesadOnline: About 151,000 tons of different kinds of dates worth about $180 million were exported from Iran during the first seven months of the current Iranian year (March 21-Oct. 22), which shows a 25% and 70% growth in weight and value respectively compared with the corresponding period of last year.
According to Payam Nasser-Qodsi, the deputy head of Agricultural and Processing Industries Affairs Bureau of Trade Promotion Organization of Iran, India was Iran’s biggest customer as it bought more than $36 million worth of dates during the seven months.
He noted that in the past two years, India has been the biggest importer of dates in the world, suggesting that Iran has gained a strong foothold in the Indian market, according to Financial Tribune.
Nasser-Qodsi added that the global average date production stands at 15 tons per hectare while the figure stands at 6.1 tons per hectare in Iran, "which is very low in comparison".
Chairman of the National Association of Iranian Dates Mohsen Rashid Farrokhi told Financial Tribune last year that Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the world's biggest producers of date with an average annual output of 1.4 million tons, 1.2 million tons and 1.1 million tons respectively.
"Yet, Iran is the biggest exporter of dates," the official said, adding that Egypt ranks second with Saudi Arabia and Tunisia sharing the third spot.
About 1.2 million tons of different kinds of dates were produced in Iran in the last fiscal year (March 2017-18), more than 181,000 tons of which were exported (about 15%), Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture reported, citing data released by the Statistical Center of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
Farrokhi has said the government has a five-year plan to increase the share of exports from local production to 30%.
Pakistan, India and Kazakhstan with 44,000 tons, 39,000 tons and 28,000 tons of purchases respectively were Iran’s top three export destinations last year.
Dates were cultivated on over 170,000 hectares of palm-groves in the country last year with the provinces of Kerman and Sistan-Baluchestan both in the southeast and Khuzestan in the south being the biggest producers.
Dates are also grown in the provinces of Hormozgan, Fars, Bushehr, Khuzestan, Ilam, Kermanshah, Yazd, South Khorasan and Isfahan.
Per capita date consumption in Iran is 3 kilograms.
Farrokhi also said that he believes date and its byproducts have enormous potential for growth and if Iran plans to have a more active presence in world markets, it should consider date processing.
“The importance of investment in date processing industry should not be overlooked. Dates are considered high-revenue crop, such that even the powdered seeds of this fruit have recently found their way into the food industry,” he said.
The official said more work needs to be done to raise awareness among potential investors to develop a sustainable industry in Iran.
Stating that 15% of the dates produced in Iran are used in the processing industry, he said plans are underway, as part of the above-mentioned five-year plan, to increase the share to 30%.
Abolqasem Hassanpour, former director general of Agriculture Ministry’s Tropical and Subtropical Fruits Department, also told Financial Tribune that more than 12 types of dates are produced in Iran.
"Date cultivation has created about 350,000 jobs in Iran," he said.