Saudi Arabia exports of dates rise 27% in six months

Expert urges new marketing policy to boost staple fruit's sale


By Muhammad Al-Abdullah

Okaz/Saudi Gazette

Saudi dates exports have registered a 27 percent rise during the first half of 2019, as the total exports during the period have already reached SR574 million, compared to the total dates exports in 2018, during which the total exports reached SR758 million and the quantity exceeding 163,000 tons.

While the Saudi staple fruit has seen its export grow, a marketing specialist, Dr. Obeid Al-Abdali, called for the Saudi firms to widen its focus in international markets.

He said Saudi companies focus on the Muslim communities in international markets, but there ought to be a focus on the citizens of those markets considering them to be the main and constant consumers. “The focus should not be restricted to the Muslim communities alone,” he added.

He told Okaz: “The problem that exporters to overseas countries face is targeting the poor segments of the society. The volume of dates exports to world markets is small compared to the total annual production.

“The problem facing export of Saudi dates is that studies on foreign markets are lacking, and not getting acquainted with the tastes and consumer behavior in the foreign markets.”

A Saudi Exports Development Authority report, which Okaz has gone through, has mentioned that the Kingdom exports dates to over 60 countries worldwide. These include Arab Gulf countries, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Britain and India.

In its report, the Authority said that it was striving to increase the Kingdom’s share in the global dates market. In this regard, it prepared a set of detailed reports specifically for the dates sector and its export, targeting the most promising markets for importing dates, which have reached 23.

This is due to the importance of the dates sector and the increasing global demand for dates, as the fruit has a unique nutritional and health value. Furthermore, it enters many processing industries.

Meanwhile, the General Authority for Statistics (GASTAT) has said that the value of dates exports in the Kingdom has registered a 11.7 percent growth during Q1 2018 with the value of exports reaching SR222.4 million compared to SR199.1 million during the same period in 2017.

The report further said that the value of Saudi exports has jumped by 31.2 percent since 2015. In this regard, it reached SR702.9 million in 2017, compared to SR579.8 million in 2016 and SR535.7 million in 2015.

The Khalas, Sukkari and Safawi kinds of dates were in highest demand with export opportunities available in foreign markets including the US, France, the UAE, Morocco, Turkey, Malaysia and Britain.

The report said that the licensed factories for dates packing and processing have totaled 157, with a total financing exceeding SR1.537 billion and an estimated annual production of 789 tons. Meantime, the number of workers in the dates factories has totaled 18,588.

Meanwhile, sources related to the dates industry have stressed the necessity to support the small companies by establishing an authority to act as an umbrella for all factories, with the aiming of accessing the international markets.

The sources said that the marketing of dates products is still below the aspired level and requires development. They called for unifying the trademark for marketing the products locally and globally.

Ali Ibrahim, an investor, told Okaz: “The prices of dates differ depending on the type and quality. The prices from the farms range between SR600 and 800 per mann (one mann is equivalent to 240 kg).”

Ibrahim further said that his annual dates purchases range between 10 and 12 tons. These include the types Khlass, Shishi, Barhi, Sukkari and other kinds.

He said that local consumption forms the highest percentage of sales, adding that dates exports go to Gulf countries, Europe and some Asian countries.