KARACHI - Sindh dates have huge potential to capture international markets with small efforts for converting them into value addition. This was stated by Director General Sindh Board of Investment after talking with a delegation of officials and date growers from Sindh.

A delegation of Sindh Board of Investment consisting of date palm growers and officers of SBI visited processing plant of Al-Foah Date Processing Company located in Al-Ain, UAE. The processing plant is considered to be the most sophisticated. The plant was set up by the UAE Govt. some 14 years ago to help develop date palm cluster by acting as a common facility centre for date palm processing in numerous forms.

Welcoming the delegation Sameer, Export Sales Manager of Al-Foah and factory manager Uday Singh briefed about the processing facility available in the factory before they are packed in finished form for markets. Growers were sensitised about the proper fumigation of the raw date crop, which increases the shelf life and also prevent from any pest, insects or diseases along with the eggs and larvae of insects inside. State of art factory also included high capacity washing, sorting and drying facility with cold storage capacity of more than 60,000 tons. Processed dates are stored at 10 degree Celsius. Subsequently dates were either packed in various forms as whole fruits or they were diverted to syrup and paste lines. Further value addition was being done of whole dates by stuffing nuts or by coating with chocolate. Finally, dates and their derivatives were being packed.

Sindh alone produces more than 300,000 tons of dates per annum and total date production of Pakistan crosses 600,000 tons but due to unawareness of modern processing techniques and value addition, Pakistan has never achieved International appreciation to its true potential. Pakistan dates are exported mainly for Industrial use or in the pitted form, which hardly fetch any price.

Sindh Board of Investment has organised visit to modern dates processing facilities on the sidelines of participation in International Dates Palm Festival in Abu Dhabi. Delegation is based on dare growers, exporters and processors of Sindh. Such visits enlarge the mental horizons of grower and exporters by exposing them to the possibilities of quality enhancement and value addition.

In the present day when technological improvements and innovations have become the norm in other date palm producing countries, Pakistan has a long way to go before its entrepreneurs are able to compete in the global market.