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Israeli Medjool dates dominate the global market
Three out of every four Medjool dates consumed in the world last year were grown in Israel, primarily in the Arava Valley region located in the southeastern part of the country. Israel annually produces between 65% and 75% of all Medjool dates exported globally, and dates have become a true bonanza for the Israeli agriculture sector. Only some 40,000 tons of the roughly 8 million tons of dates consumed annually worldwide are Medjool dates, but that market is said to be growing every year as more people are exposed to the high quality fruit.
The green date palms are hard not to notice in the desert landscape of the Arava Valley, with hundreds of hectares dotting the region adjacent to the border with Jordan. These plantations were introduced to the region over a century ago, alongside numerous other date varieties such as the Nour and the Halawi. The Medjool however is considered superior to the other varieties; originally from Morocco, it is a large and juicy date, with high minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and fibers, all of which helps gain attention and garner a high price from consumers. This last fact more than anything has made it a favorite product for growers as well and has allowed growers in Israel to benefit greatly.
The success has not gone unnoticed, and over the last few years hundreds of new hectares of date palms have been planted, in the Arava as well as other regions in the eastern part of Israel. The plantings have come from existing growers expanding their plantations, as well as about 100 new growers planting dates for the first time. "Israeli growers know to transition from one product to another, to what seems better for them," explains the head of the Israeli Farmers Federation Meir Tzur, "right now they are going for dates, which has been a great success."
The magnitude of this trend in the last few years has raised some concerns of supply exceeding demand in the future. A major grower from Ein Yahav in the Arava explained that he is "not certain that the global market will develop and grow at the same pace as our production will. Most of our production goes to export, and despite growing demand there is also a lot of Medjool being planted in Israel and in other parts of the world. I estimate that the prices we are currently seeing will drop, which will have a meaningful impact on our profits."
Despite the eminent increase in supply, most remain optimistic regarding the foothold of the Israeli Medjool industry in the global markets. Shai Stern, who heads the dates division in the Israeli Growers council, says that Israel is playing a central role in the development of new markets.
Publication date: 3/18/2016
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