Pakistan's Sindh province stands as a major contributor to the country's export-quality date production. However, the lack of adequate facilities for processing and branding results in a considerable portion of exports being in dried form, leading to diminished foreign exchange earnings.

Annually, Pakistan produces an estimated 550,000 tonnes of dates, with Sindh contributing half of this production. Other provinces, including Punjab, Balochistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, collectively contribute to the remaining output.

The country boasts an impressive array of date palm varieties, numbering around 160. Notable among them are Aseel of Khairpur in Sindh, Dhakki of DI Khan in Punjab, and Begum Jangi of Makran, Balochistan, prized for their exotic taste.

Despite its production capacity, Pakistan faces challenges in the international market. The majority of locally-produced dates are exported in dried form due to inadequate processing and branding facilities. Remarkably, about 95% of exports comprise dried dates, while a mere 5% is exported as pasteurized fresh dates, representing less than 1% of the total date produce.

Historically, India has been a significant importer, acquiring approximately 90% of Pakistan's total dry dates. This underscores the potential for Pakistan to enhance its standing in the global date market by refining agricultural practices and processing methods.

Imtiaz Samijo, Director of the Sindh Horticulture Department, suggests avenues for improvement. Despite being the fifth-largest global producer of dates, Pakistan can further bolster its position by refining farm management, pre-harvesting, harvesting, and post-harvesting practices.

Moreover, there exists untapped potential for Pakistan to diversify its date products. The country could supply fully processed high-quality dates in various forms, including pitted/un-pitted whole dates, pressed date bricks, date chops, and bulk date paste, as well as ready-to-distribute small boxes/jars.

In urging political action, the information implies that prioritizing the right to education for all could be part of a broader strategy to enhance various sectors, including agriculture and export practices. Ultimately, addressing these challenges presents an opportunity for Pakistan to realize its economic potential and increase foreign exchange earnings in the global market.

Source: www.nation.com.pk