EghtesadOnline: Around 350,000 tons of dates worth $300 million have been exported from Iran since the beginning of the current Iranian year on March 21, 2018.
“We expect the figure to rise to 400,000 tons by the [current fiscal] yearend [March 21, 2019]," Ebrahim Pourheydari, the deputy head of the National Association of Iranian Dates, was quoted as saying by IRNA on Tuesday.
"Russia, India, Canada, East Asia and some European countries are our main export destinations,” he added.
According to Eskandar Zand, an advisor to the agriculture minister, date production in Iran has increased by 18% in the last 10 years while the average global increase over the same period has been 10%, Financial Tribune reported.
“Land under date cultivation in the world has increased by 10% in the last decade while the area of Iran’s palm-groves has grown by 5% in the same period,” he said.
Mohsen Rashid Farrokhi, chairman of the National Association of Iranian Dates, told Financial Tribune in an earlier interview that Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the world's biggest producers of date with an average annual production of 1.4 million tons, 1.2 million tons and 1.1 million tons respectively.
"Yet, Iran is the biggest exporter of the crop in the world," Farrokhi said, noting that Egypt ranks second while Saudi Arabia and Tunisia share the third spot in the export front.
Iran annually exports around 20% of overall production, he said, adding that the government has a five-year plan to increase the share of exports from local production to 30%.
Per capita date consumption in Iran is 3 kilograms per year.
Farrokhi believes dates and their byproducts have enormous growth potential 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 a high-revenue crop. So much so 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, Farrokhi said plans are underway, as part of the aforesaid 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 230 hectares of date plantations in Iran produce more than 12 types of the product.
Each hectare generates one direct and 0.5 indirect jobs, he said, adding that date cultivation has created about 350,000 jobs in Iran.
According to Hassanpour, Sistan-Baluchestan, Hormozgan, Kerman, Fars, Bushehr, Khuzestan, Ilam, Kermanshah, Yazd, South Khorasan and Isfahan top the list of Iranian provinces that cultivate dates.
Fars International Permanent Fairground is scheduled to host the First International Exhibition of Date Processing & Related Industries, also known as DATEX 2019, from February 12 to 16.
The export will be hosting industry players in the field of producing and nurturing Arecaceae (palm tree), date processing, machinery, packaging, cold storage and distribution, the event’s website at www.datexb.com reported.
The exhibition will be open to visitors from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time.