Pakistan’s palm dates are renowned for their rich nutrition and high sugar content and they can not only be savoured as sweets, but can also be used for sugar production.

As one of the major date producers, Pakistan is known for treating their guests with date sweets, said Cheng Xizhong, Visiting Professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law.

However, in recent years, although Pakistan has had a bumper harvest of dates year after year, people who are engaged in date business cannot earn as much. The profit on dates continues to decrease with the decline in prices.

“This is caused not by the pandemic, but mainly by the imported dates from the Middle East,” he said.

The dates produced in Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries almost dominate the global market, mainly because these countries have advanced cold storage systems and modern logistics industry, he said.

While in Pakistan, the under-development of the two factors is restraining the value addition of domestic dates, he added. The traditional sales season of dates is Ramazan. But provided a sound cold storage system, they can be sold all year round.

If there are advanced deep-processing technology and equipment, the dates can be dried or made into other date products to meet people’s demand throughout the year, which will in turn mobilise the enthusiasm of farmers to plant date palm trees on a large scale, thus forming a benign cycle, he maintained.

“In terms of deep processing, some European countries import dates from the Middle East, then remove the cores and process the meat into value-added products, which are handsomely packaged and sold all over the world at prices several times higher than dates.”

In China, jujube is bringing much income to the people of Xinjiang, who have mastered the techniques to produce concentrated jujube juice, jujube vinegar and jujube jelly, as well as jujube oral liquid with health care functions. All of them are well received by the market.

Last year, the global date market reached $12.4 billion and is expected to rise to $17.6 billion in 2026.

The expansion of the market is visible. If Pakistan could not seize this wave of dividends, the local date market would be even further undermined, he said. Chinese people who pay much attention to health care also like processed palm date products.

In China, people are developing the habit of less sugar. Meanwhile, the demand for sweet taste is driving them to spot alternatives. Dates, in this regard, can be made into sweeteners, which are healthier than ordinary sucrose.

By providing coreless dates, chocolate dates and other products, Pakistani dates could win the hearts of Chinese consumers, he projected.

“As China and Pakistan are now closely carrying out agricultural technical cooperation, I would like to put forward some comments for the progress of Pakistani date industry,” Xizhong said.

First, in phase-II of construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), agriculture is of paramount importance. Breeding knowhow, machinery and other agricultural technologies continue to be introduced in Pakistan.

As a result, hopefully, Pakistan’s date industry would usher in a new chapter with enhanced competence in China’s vast market, he said.

Second, China could help Pakistan develop the modern logistics industry and establish modern cold storage systems.

THE ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED ON THE CHINA ECONOMIC NET

Published in The Express Tribune, December 9th, 2021.

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