Value-addition may be a way for Pakistani dates to enter offshore market
Dates are dried in the sun. [Photo/Gwadar Pro]
KHAIRPUR, Aug.25(Gwadar Pro) - “We have 4-5 types of dates. In them, Aseel is on the top. We have Karbala. There is one from Kurma Zaidi, Iran. We also have Chuwara. It is also made of Aseel. The date of this area is the best,” Sajjad Ahmed, a dates shopkeeper in Khairpur, told Gwadar Pro.
Sajjad’s hometown, Khairpur district in southern Sindh province, is the main region for date cultivation in Pakistan. Especially in the months of Shaban and Ramadan, Aseel date, the most famous date of Pakistan, is transported everywhere throughout Pakistan from here.
“The rate depends on season. Generally, the rate is 150-200 rupees per kilo. There is also a 100 rupees per kilo depending on the category,” said Sajjad.
Aside from the domestic market, dates businessmen are also seeking foreign markets. “From here, we send Aseel date to different countries, like America, Italy, France. We also export it to China,” he said.
Pakistan is one of the top date producers and exporters in the world, with annual date production of more than 535,000 tons, data from the Trade Development Authority shows. Yet dates are not exported to China in large quantities. In the last financial year, the export of dates, figs, pineapples, avocados to China altogether totaled $115,000, according to the State Bank of Pakistan.
Similarly, in Kajoor Market, Sakhar, Market President Hub Ali Jatoi said that now date product is stocked too much, thus they are also seeking export. “Now most dates products go to India, Dubai, America, and China. China has a very big market, we may have stalls there and introduce our quality.”
Dates in Kajoor Market, Sakhar. [Photo/Gwadar Pro]
“To sell dates on a large scale in China may require us to target the consumption habits of Chinese people and make the dates into a product in line with Chinese consumers' taste. In this way, it can have a better market prospect,” Tang Minmin, Associate researcher, Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences, told Gwadar Pro.
In China, there’s a kind of Chinese date, which has developed a mature production model and increased the added value of products. As Pakistani dates and Chinese dates show similarity in some ways, Chinese date’s marketing can be a good lesson for the Pakistani variety.
“For the Chinese date, value-added products like date concentrated juice, date vinegar, date jelly, oral liquid with a health care function, and Bordeaux, are gradually recognized by the market,” Tang said, adding that Pakistani dates producers can learn from Chinese expertise, and develop some high value-added products based on their dates’ characteristics.
High value-added products may be a way out. But apart from deep processing, Tang said that efficient cultivation and pest control are also potential areas for cooperation between the two countries, where Chinese scientific research institutions can provide technical support.
“We have some technical skills especially in deep processing and pests control, and for Pakistan, there's space for improvement in these regards. We have signed an agreement with the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. The agreement focuses on date research and platform building, under which a 100-mu(7 hectares) demonstration farm was built to carry out comprehensive control of pests,” Tang said.