Iran produced close to 1.2 million tons of dates in the last Iranian year that ended on March 20, 2017, almost as much as the year before, the chairman of the National Association of Iranian Dates said.
Mohsen Rashid Farrokhi also told Financial Tribune that close to 20% of overall production, worth around $300 million, were exported to Europe, North America, the Far East and Russia, registering a 2% increase compared to the previous year.
According to the official, Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia are the world’s biggest producers of date with 1.4 million tons, 1.2 million tons and 1.1 million tons per year respectively.
“Yet, Iran is the biggest exporter of the crop,” Farrokhi said, adding that Egypt ranks second with Saudi Arabia and Tunisia sharing the third spot.
Tunisia ranks seventh in production but is the third biggest exporter of dates.
“Tunisia provides a successful model. We must learn from the country to boost the quality and packaging of our products,” he said.
Farrokhi believes date and its byproducts present enormous potentials 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 a 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 about them among potential investors to develop a sustainable industry in Iran.
Farrokhi noted that the government has a five-year plan to increase the share of exports from local production to 30%.
“For this, we have started working on India and China as our new markets and already gained some success,” he said.
Stating that 15% of the dates produced in Iran are used in the processing industry, Farrokhi said plans are underway, as part of the above-mentioned five-year plan, to increase the share to 30%.
Per capita date consumption in Iran is 3 kilograms.
Director General of Agricultural Ministry’s Tropical and Subtropical Fruits Department Abolqasem Hassanpour also told Financial Tribune that 230 hectares of date plantations in Iran produce more than 12 types of the product.
“In each hectare, 1 direct and 0.5 indirect jobs are created and date cultivation [in Iran] has created about 350,000 jobs,” he said.
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.