According to the Laurent la Morella, Medjoul date sales are on an upward trend. Laurent owns the Belgian company, Lorre nv, which is based in Brussels. "This market increases annually," he says.
"More and more people are, only now, discovering these dates and their benefits. We supply Medjoul dates to all markets. On the one hand retailers, but also more and more wholesalers and market vendors have discovered this delicacy."
Laurent la Morella with his own brand of Medjoul dates.
Laurent is currently visiting his South African growers. "Harvesting is in full swing at the moment. The dates are very large and of very high quality. There are almost no small sizes available. Half of the plantation still needs to be harvested, but there is very little unusable product."
"This is fortunate because we are expecting a lower total production volume than last year. Then, the yield was about 1.500 tons. This year, we are expecting 1.300 tons. The weather was good but, at times, there was a lot of wind. This causes the dates to dry out quicker," he explains.
"You cannot speed up the harvesting process. If you want a nice date, you have to harvest it at a specific time of day. A large number of the dates are packed directly. So when you have reached maximum capacity, there is no sense in faster harvesting."
On the left: Nets protect the fruit against insects, birds, and wild animals. On the right: Machines harvest the fruit from these tall trees.
According to this importer, the cultivation of this product is expanding rapidly. "This year, they are going to plant roughly 10% more trees. However, a tree has to be at least eight years old for it to bear good fruit," Laurent says.
"The additional planting provides security for the fluctuation in the harvests. Demand is, however, 40% higher than the supply. So, it is still a long road. In South Africa, harvesting will continue until around the first week in April. After that, everything is stored and shipped."
On the left: Freshly picked dates.
Laurent was asked how the South African Medjoul distinguishes itself from dates from other countries. "The dates' have a lighter color, yet it is vibrant," he answers. "This is due to the type of soil and the climate. The plantations are also on the banks of a river. This ensure that the dates receive a lot of moisture and are grow large."
"One must also not underestimate the expertise of the farmers. They use certain intervention methods to determine whether a tree needs more or less sunlight, dryness, etc. These are real experts who live for their farms. After harvesting, they also determine when a date needs to dry out more or rather get more moisture."
Some of the trees on the banks of the Orange River.
"We sell these Medjoul dates via the market in Brussels. There, people can find what they are looking for from Monday to Friday between 4:30 and 11:00 in the morning. They can buy a few boxes or full pallets. We have been selling these dates since we started and have built up a strong reputation."
"Our expertise, as well as the dates' quality, is highly valued. We are also in daily contact with our suppliers. We, therefore, know better than anyone what is going on in the market. We offer all levels of quality and are also in close contact with our clients. These dates are, of course, part of our dried fruit and nuts range," concludes Laurent.