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EghtesadOnline: Around a month after rumors started circulating that Iranian palm trees were being smuggled from the country’s southern provinces, Bushehr in particular, to the littoral states of the Persian Gulf, the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration has now confirmed that exports have been made under the supervision of Bushehr’s Agricultural Organization.

“A total of 650 tons of palm trees and palm tree saplings were exported during the first seven months of the current Iranian year [March 21-Oct. 22]. Some 600 tons of the volume were palm trees and the rest were saplings,” Mehrdad Jamal Arvanaqi, IRICA’s deputy head for technical affairs, was quoted as saying by ISNA.

The official added that between Oct. 23 and Nov. 21, four export declarations were registered with Bushehr Special Economic Zone based on which a total of 588 palm trees weighing 600 tons and worth $136,100 were exported to Qatar.

“Because the commodity is a sensitive export good, the palm trees were under the supervision of the experts of Bushehr’s Agricultural Organization to make sure they went through plant quarantines and were safe to receive phytosanitary certificates for exports. All required documents were uploaded on IRICA’s Electronic Packaging List Platform,” he said.

Arvanaqi noted that although all the consignments were exported under plant export protocols, they were all returned by the Qatari side, and now the seller is carrying out the customs and agricultural safety procedures to bring back the trees.

It was about a month ago that the head of the National Association of Iranian Dates, Mohsen Rashid Farrokhi, told ILNA that date palm trees were being smuggled abroad.

“These precious trees are being uprooted and smuggled via small vessels to Kuwait and Qatar. The smuggling is not practiced on a large scale,” he added.

Khosrow Omrani, the deputy head of Bushehr Agricultural Organization, says palm tree exports are allowed under special circumstances in limited numbers and as specific variants.

“The export of the country’s strategic genetic reserves is not permitted under any circumstances. Not all palm trees can be exported and only few variants are allowed to go through the procedure,” Omrani was quoted as saying by Jahan-e Sanat daily.

 

 

Palm Export Allowed Under Strict Protocol

Zahra Jalili Moqaddam, an Agriculture Ministry official, says due to the high risk of pollutant, pest and disease transmittance, the export of palm trees is not very common.

“All around the world, strict protocols are in place for the trade of plants and plant products, and the same is true in Iran. In the case of palm trees, most countries prevent the import of those with a trunk diameter of over 15 centimeters to lower the risk of transmittance of melanophila and wood-eating pests such as longhornbeetles, Japanese rhinoceros, palm weevil Rhynchophorus ferrugineus and powderpost beetles,” she added.

The official stressed that the export of indigenous variants are banned, adding that non-indigenous, non-fruit bearing exports are allowed under the direct supervision of related authorities like the Agricultural Research, Education and Extension Organization, Seed and Plant Improvement Institute and the Plant Gene Bank.

“We have plans in the Agriculture Ministry to replace old variants with commercial and popular ones. Given that Qatar is hosting World Cup 2022, the neighboring country is also planning to expand its green area and therefore, has eased its plant export regulations. This is why some palm-grove owners requested to be able to sell their old palms to that country to be able to rejuvenate their land by planting new palms that bear dates that are more economically profitable,” she said.

According to Moqaddam, Iran is the world’s second biggest producer of dates with an annual production of around 1.2 million tons that account for 10% of the global output.

Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Pakistan, Algeria, Iraq, Sudan, Oman and Libya are the top 10 producers of dates in the world. Egypt has the biggest production and Algeria has the biggest area of land under date cultivation.

There are a dozen types of dates produced in Iran with per capita consumption standing over 3 kilograms per year.

Date is mainly produced in six Iranian provinces, namely Kerman, Sistan-Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Hormozgan, Bushehr and Fars. Last year, production from Kerman, Sistan-Baluchestan and Khuzestan accounted for 800,000 tons (70%) of the total output. Out of the provinces mentioned above, Fars is the date processing and packaging hub.

 

IRICA Palm Tree