Cold storage and deep-processing way out for Pakistani dates

Islamabad, September 19 (INP): Cold storage and deep-processing way out for Pakistani dates, to get better price in the open market, says a report published by China Economic Net on Sunday.

Cold storage is probably the word that comes up most often among dates shopkeepers. The report says, Sajjad Ahmed, a dates vendor has sold a quarter of his stock so far, and it may take a year to sell the rest.

It is a situation that many store owners face. Therefore how to store dates in cold storage is vital for them to win back their losses as much as possible. “If there is cold storage, these dates will not spoil in three years, or even five or six years,” said another vender. However, not many store owners could afford cold storage.

Anther dates vendor Haji Hanif wanted Pakistani government to subsidize cold storage for dates practitioners, or at least build some cold storage for them, “there are one or two local cold storage facilities in Sakhhar now, which is far from enough.”

Shan Saeed, a chief economist at Juwai IQI, said that the biggest problem of dates production in Pakistan is inadequate cold storage facilities, followed by logistics issues. He also said that with the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, the logistics problem should be improved.

In addition to storing fresh dates in cold storage, Pakistani farmers dry them into dried dates that can be sold throughout the season. Shams ul Islam, Vice President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said the traditional date selling season is in Ramadan. After the Ramadan this year, “our growers are facing losses,” due to sluggish export performance.

Habib ur Rehman, who is undertaking date business in Karachi, has embraced a bumper harvest of dates this year, yet the omens for the market are not well. Involved in the sector for more than ten years, the current predicament is unprecedented even for a veteran like him.

“I’m selling dates cheap this year, even lower than last year during the outbreak of the COVID-19,” Rehman said.

It’s not an individual case but the whole dates market. Hub Ali Jatoi, an owner of a local market, told the reporter that the profit of dates is declining with the dropping price. “In the past, the sale price of low-quality dates stands at 3,000 rupees per 40kg, but now it’s only 1,500 rupees.”

From Karachi to Peshawar, dates sellers are complaining about loss of profits, and the causes behind it are complicated.

According to the latest data from the Saudi National Date Center, the export volume of the Middle East countries reached 185,000 tons in the first half of 2021, an increase of over 50% year-on-year.

The senior vice president of a Pakistani enterprise Ramaish Kumar pointed out that date price decline in Pakistan is mainly due to the huge import from the Middle East countries.

The view is echoed by many other insiders. Haji Hanif, General Secretary of Karachi Chamber of Commerce for Dates said the price of dates was elevated artificially last year due to limitations of import caused by the closure of borders. As the borders were open this year with large amounts of dates entering the Pakistani market, they have to sell dates at a lower price.

Sajjad Ahmed, a dates vendor in Karachi believed the import has squeezed the market of local dates. “It’s better to consume local dates first, otherwise, there will be a huge waste.”

However, not everyone agrees on the argument. Muhammad Sabir, President of Karachi Chamber of Commerce for Dates pinpointed that the output of local dates is not as much. He elaborated, “dates import from Iraq stands at 12,000 tons, and Iran 15,000 tons to 20,000 tons. Without the imports, we can’t fulfill the consumption of the domestic market.”