Date harvest: abundant production, good quality with marketing difficulties
12/09/2020 17:00, TUNIS/Tunisia

TUNIS (TAP/Mehrez Mejri) - Date production would reach nearly 335 thousand tonnes with big size during the 2020-2021 season. However, it will be accompanied by difficulties especially in terms of prices and exports.

Director-General of the Interprofessional Group of Dates (French: GID), Samir Ben Slimane said in an interview with TAP the new season of production and marketing of these fruits will experience cyclical difficulties, characterised by a second wave of coronavirus that will impact the pace of export.

The apprehensions of exporters, storekeepers and processing and packaging units (250 packaging and export companies) will certainly affect the level of producer prices.

The Director-General said all stakeholders in this sector know that the new season will be accompanied by difficulties especially in terms of marketing and lower prices.

To this end, a series of working meetings have been held between all stakeholders to prepare for the new season and solve the problem of declining purchases of palm, especially with regard to the oases in the governorate of Tozeur.

One of the difficulties encountered in this sector is the decline in covering the date clusters, which has led the group to intervene exceptionally to help small-scale producers acquire mosquito nets.

Ben Slimane stressed that the group will work in collaboration with producers to institute measures to improve affluence on the local market especially during Ramadan.

"This organisation will work to implement a strategy to boost the domestic market and encourage local consumption of this product marketed to 83 countries around the world," he said.

The official spoke about the preparations for this new season, estimating that although the period of supply of equipment coincides with that of COVID-19, all difficulties have been overcome by importing 6 million nets and making them available to producers, including 3.5 million units in Kebili and 2.5 million nets in Tozeur.

Exports of dates reached until September 11th, 120 thousand tonnes worth 832 MD against 118 thousand tonnes worth 827 MD during the 2018-2019 season.

Ben Slimane said that the spread of Coronavirus in the country and especially the institution of total lockdown in March 2020 have totally blocked the export machine with the cancellation of the units of conditioning and packaging.

He stressed that the expected targets in the field of export provide for the disposal of nearly 130 thousand tonnes during the 2019-2020 season, while until March 20, 2020, nearly 82 thousand tonnes were exported against 76 thousand tonnes during the 2018-2019 season.

He noted, however, that Tunisia has exported good quantities of dates to its traditional customers who have procured early (November, December and January), in anticipation of Ramadan.

Tunisia has also exported 38 thousand tonnes during the lockdown period, according to Ben Slimane who recalled that the date harvest for last season reached 334 thousand tonnes, with the degradation of quality of this product compared to the previous season.

Ben Slimane also mentioned the technical obstacles put by Morocco against Tunisian dates, which is also a producer of dates but at the same time it imports these goods from other countries especially from Tunisia (32 thousand tonnes on average annually).

He said that the competent authorities have negotiated with the parties concerned to find common ground, and thereby overcome this difficulty, by showing a health certificate to the Maghreb parties that proves that Tunisian dates are healthy against all residues of insecticides.

Tunisian exports to Morocco are estimated during this year at 26 thousand tonnes, recording a decrease of 8 thousand tonnes compared to last year because of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on data from the World Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the official said that Tunisia ranks tenth worldwide in terms of production of dates, fourth in the world in terms of quantities exported and first worldwide in terms of export value.  

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