Snags in boosting date exports
By Mohammad Hussain Khan
May 9, 2011: DATE producers expect a fairly good crop in
Sindh this season, but fear post-harvest losses because of
lack of proper drying, processing and storage facilities.
Horticulturist Qurban Jaskani of Date Palm Research Station,
Kot Diji farm, believes that the fruit setting is
satisfactory in Sindh where it is grown on 62,000 hectares.
“Our recent survey reveals that in 70 per cent cases the
crop is good. However, fruit dropping has been reported from
Pir jo Goth and Ahmedpur in taluka Kingri due to water
shortage. At this crucial stage of fruit setting water is a
must for the crop,” he says.
According to him, only 13 out of many varieties produced in
Sindh have been registered so far. The major share of the
fruit comes from Khairpur in Sindh where Aseel and Karbalai,
two popular varieties, are produced. Dates are also grown in
Rohri, Nawabshah and Naushahro Feroze in Sindh but on a
Khuda Bux Phulpoto, who grows dates on 30 acres, complains
that rains always create problems for date growers in
managing the fruit. “It is difficult to manage the crop
during monsoon because ripe dates start dropping and need to
be dried under sunlight in hygienic condition. That`s why
growers need cold storage and processing facilities for the
fruit,” he says.
The growers believe that Pakistan has not been able to
exploit the full potential of the fruit in the international
market for lack of investment in post-harvest facilities
which can help improve its quality. The growers adopt manual
practices to dehydrate the fruit after its harvest, which is
not up to mark.
Dates usually mature in mid-July, though some varieties
reach the market in June. It is always the monsoon season
that synchronises with the crop`s harvest which damages the
fully ripe dates. To save the crop from monsoon`s effect,
farmers collect hard, unripe dates and boil them, which are
called choara . The half-ripe date is dried under the sun.
Because of rains farmers do not wait for the rest of the
crop to mature and harvest it. The fruit is often dried in
unhygienic conditions as it is spread on straw mats for
drying under sunlight. The dates are graded according to
their quality and size.
Progressive farmer Qadir Bux Mari advocates modern
technology for dates processing to push up it exports. He
believes that currently the production of dry dates exceeds
the production of fresh dates (fully ripe dates) because the
growers have to boil them for fear of being damaged in
According to Mari, the government must establish a research
institute and infrastructure to develop tissue culture
techniques. Some varieties like Deglet Nour of Egypt, Amber
of Saudi Arabia are needed to be obtained for cultivation
here as climatic conditions of Khairpur district are
favourable for them. He says that Sindh`s Aseel date has 65
per cent sugar content and is in demand in France and
Germany for their use in bakeries. But the main hurdle in
enhancing their export is the lack of processing and storage
facilities. Dry date or Choara is exported to India on a
large scale, where it is widely used on occasions of
religious rituals by the Hindu community.
The growers demand setting up of cold storages and
processing units in the date-growing areas. They also want
construction of farm-to-market roads besides transparency in
market mechanism to facilitate export of dates and earning
precious foreign exchange.
Dates palm makes Pakistan the fifth major producer in the
world with a production of about 535,000-600,000 metric
tons. Of the various varieties grown here, 85 per cent is
Aseel and Karbalai. Other varieties are Fasli, Muzawati,
Hillawi, Begum Jangi, Dashtiari, Sabzo, Jaan Swore, Kehraba,
Rabai and Dhakki. Dates are also produced in Turbat and
Panjgoor areas in Balochistan, Muzaffar Garh and Jhang in
Punjab and Dera Ismail Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkha.
The growers need to give up auctioning their orchards to
contractors and manage them themselves for better yield and
Courtesy: The DAWN