Dates: growing frustration

Date: 15th December 2022 Category: Latest News
Dates: growing frustration

Mundus Agri. Suppliers are watching with a growing sense of frustration how other countries are gaining a foothold in Europe with the dates produced in Iran. Trouble is mismanaged branding, packaging, and policies, which cost the industry dearly as neighboring countries tend to reap the profits.

The industry not only has itself to blame

Although Iran is the second largest exporter of dates in the world with annual overseas shipments ranging at 297 million mt, this is achieved with a remarkably low average export price. Suppliers are, however, by no means trying to undercut prices in other countries such as Tunisia, Saudi Arabia or France, the Netherlands, or the United States, but it is rather the case that other countries tend to buy unprocessed Iranian dates in bulk or in large packages of 5-10 kg cheaply and resell them at higher rates.

Inefficiency in coordinating harvesting, packaging, and sorting effectively means that as little as around 21% of the country’s production is processed into marketable volumes. This raw sale leaves the country with high exports and a low income, for which the industry, however, not only has itself to blame. In addition, the regime’s stubborn stance on nuclear enrichment and its crackdown on tourists, human rights activists, and protesters have resulted in sanctions that cripple foreign trade.

Transportation is, for instance, an issue. Not only are large transportation companies reluctant to work in Iran but the sanctions have prompted costs to triple. While Iranian businesses have to pay as much as USD 12,000 (EUR 11,390) to rent a container, businesses in rival producing countries only pay a maximum of USD 4,000 (EUR 3,797). The sanctions also entail time-consuming problems, which local suppliers have to deal with, and it takes longer for dates shipped from Iran to reach their destination than for dates shipped from other countries.

Sore point Turkey

Suppliers in Iran are particularly annoyed about the fact that Turkey, which is not a leading producing country, has gained a strong foothold in Europe. However, Iran holds a much more prominent market position than Turkey. The country buys raw dates in Iran and resells them to Europe. Turkey, in fact, shipped 1,580 mt of dates worth EUR 4.288 million (USD 4.517 million) to the EU in 2021.

Rival producers such as Tunisia, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, and Israel also fetched higher prices. Pakistan, however, had the lowest average export price. The EU imported a total of 139.160 mt of dates worth EUR 305.618 million (USD 321.941 million) .