EghtesadOnline: A total of 388,405 tons of different types of dates worth $296 million were exported from Iran to 85 countries in the last Iranian year (March 2020-21), according to the head of the Agriculture and Food Industries Commission of Iran Chamber of Cooperatives.
India, Malaysia and Russia were the main destinations, exports to which accounted for 16%, 11% and 9.9% of Iran’s total date sales respectively during the period.
“Other destinations were Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, the UAE, Kazakhstan, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and the UK,” Arsalan Qasemi was also quoted as saying by IRNA.
According to Rouhollah Latifi, spokesman of the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration, 38,152 tons of dates worth $211.64 million were exported from Iran in the fiscal 2019-20.
According to the official, Iran is the second biggest producer of dates in the world after Egypt.
“Egypt with 1.8 million tons, Iran with 1.2 million tons and Saudi Arabia with 1 million tons are the three biggest producers of dates worldwide, accounting for 3%, 9.7% and 8.8% of global exports respectively.”
Algeria has the biggest area of land under date cultivation.
“Iran is the biggest exporter of dates in the world,” Chairman of the National Association of Iranian Dates Mohsen Rashid Farrokhi told Financial Tribune in an earlier interview.
The official noted that Egypt ranks second with Saudi Arabia and Tunisia sharing the third spot on the export front.
“Two of Iran’s southern neighbors, namely Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are reportedly expanding their palm-groves. This can turn them into serious rivals to Iran’s international date market,” he said.
“At present, our production surpasses theirs by only 50,000 to 100,000 tons per year. This calls for prompt action on the part of Iranian producers and traders active in the field to elevate our marketing methods and promote the delectable Iranian dates.”
Farrokhi said Afghanistan is also planning to replace part of its opium poppy cultivation with date palms, adding that due to that country’s geographical location there is only little land where palm groves could be grown and therefore the harvest will also be relatively meager, which cannot compete with Iranian dates in the foreign markets.
The latest report released by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says 8.5 million tons of dates are produced on palm-groves across the world.
There are a dozen types of dates produced in Iran, mainly cultivated in six provinces, namely Kerman, Sistan-Baluchestan, Khuzestan, Hormozgan, Bushehr and Fars, all in the south of the country.
Farrokhi says Iran exports around 20% of its overall production every year.
Per capita date consumption in Iran is 3 kilograms per year.
The date market accounted for around 9.6 million tons and it is anticipated to witness a compound annual growth rate of 4.6% during 2021-26, according to Mordor Intelligence.
The broadening of trade sanctions and high tariff barriers in reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic had a drastic detrimental effect on global food security. The Middle East and North African region is the largest dates producer and supplier worldwide.
Over the long term, the increased consumption of dates across the world, with the rising awareness about health benefits and rising demand for dates from the processing industries, is expected to drive the market growth over the study period.
Fresh dates offer a variety of health benefits. They are a good source of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. They also contribute fiber to the diet and have been shown to help prevent abdominal cancer.
Hence, the increased awareness over the health benefits of date consumption has boosted their imports worldwide. However, some factors such as stringent regulations, risk of pests and diseases, and political uncertainties in the Middle Eastern region are expected to restrain the market growth during the forecast period.
Middle East and Africa are considered the largest market for dates globally. Egypt, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the UAE, Iraq, Oman and Morocco dominate the MENA region, based on the volume of dates consumption.
Egypt ranked first, with the consumption of 1.6 million tons of dates in 2019. However, the highest per capita dates consumption was recorded in Oman, followed by the UAE, Algeria and Saudi Arabia.
Dates are the fruit of the date palm tree that grows in many tropical regions of the world. Dates have a long shelf life and may be eaten fresh or dried. There are hundreds of date varieties in the market.
The UAE was the largest dates importing country in 2019, with an import volume of 632,000 tons. The imported growth in quantity was recorded at 219% per annum from 2018-19. India ranked second in date imports worldwide in 2019, with an import of about 282,000 tons. Indonesia is another major importer of dates in the Asia-Pacific region.
Consumption is also rising in European countries, including France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. European consumers are searching for healthier alternatives to snack between meals or for snacks that can replace meals. Even younger consumers are switching from sweets such as candies and chocolate snacks to low-sugar alternatives. Thus, the date market is expected to witness significant growth over the forecast period.
Date fruit has a special significance in Muslim countries. Dates are traditionally served for breaking the fast during the holy month of Ramadan, as well as at greetings, funerals and post meals.
The demand for dates peaks during the holy month of Ramadan, resulting in higher imports.