Recently, it was reported that a North African country Egypt, is the largest producer of dates globally with the export of over 1 million tons annually. This puts Egypt ahead of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Pakistan. The volume produced by Egypt also doubles the total production of Sudan and South Sudan which are also Africa’s other two producers. This news comes after Egypt was finally allowed to export dates to China in January this year.
What really are dates
A date is an oval shape, one-seeded sweet fruit which belongs to the family of Palm plant. The unripe fruits are bright yellow or red in colour while the ripe fruits are brown and shrivelled, resembling a prune. They are categorized into three groups which are sugar content- soft, semi-dry and dried dates. The fruit is believed to have originated from the present day Iraq with evidence of its cultivation dating back to 7000 BC thereby making it one of the oldest cultivated fruit. According to World Atlas, date palms require arid and semi-arid conditions in places with long, hot summers and little to no rainfall for growth. The larger sizes of the fruits are in high demand on the international market.
What are the benefits of this fruit
The benefit of date fruits are numerous but the most common is its treatment of sexual weaknesses. The consumption of date fruits has been linked to enhancing sexual performance and increasing libido in both male and female. Its richness in iron helps prevent anaemia. Dates are a good source of vitamins which boost the health and functionality of the human nervous system. Dates help to reduce the risk and impact of abdominal cancer. Red dates are loaded with vitamin C and flavonoids, which can improve the elasticity of the skin and enrich the subcutaneous tissues.
How did Egypt become the largest exporter of Dates
Since Egypt produces 18 percent of the world’s dates, the country decided to take advantage of the dates sector which is one of the most promising sectors that can contribute to the advancement of its economy through boosting of export and job creation. The country has initiated several projects which would help it achieve this goal.
In 2015, the country hosted its first-ever Dates festival in Siwa Egypt, in cooperation with the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with the Khalifa International Prize for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation. This festival aims to shed light on the dates sector in Egypt and unify the efforts of all governmental institutions, research organizations, and international organizations to promote the sector and find practical solutions to the problems that the producers and manufacturers of dates are facing, according to fresh produce exporter, Fruitlink.
Egypt partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has an ongoing technical cooperation project for the development of the dates value chain for the advancement in the industry.
In 2017, Egypt’s Trade Industry prepared a strategy to develop the dates industry, in order to boost the export of the fruit from 38,000 tons to 120,000 tons during the next five years, increase the price per ton to $1,500 from $1,000. The strategy also targets to increase Egypt’s financial gains from the industry to $180 million at the end of the strategy by 2021.
By December 2018, the country’s Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Ezzedine Abusteit revealed that Egypt has 15 million palm trees, but aims to cultivate an additional 2.5 million palm trees using modern agricultural methods.
Currently, dates from Egypt have been exported to 42 countries, with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, and Thailand topping the list.
What is Nigeria doing about this
While Egypt is taking advantage of this growing sector, Nigeria still lags behind despite being the only country in the world where date palms have two harvesting seasons in a year whereas North Africa and the Middle East have only one fruiting season. Despite having this advantage, the country produces less than 20 percent of what is being consumed in the country with the remaining 80 percent being imported.
Apart from double harvesting, high yield of fruiting is also recorded in Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Adamawa and some parts of Taraba states in the country.