Harvesting of Medjool dates in Israel has been increasing over the last couple of weeks as harvesting of Bari dates winds down‭. ‬This year’s Medjool crop is expected to be 10‭ ‬percent larger than the previous season‭, ‬as Medjools continue to be popular in Europe‭.‬

Production of Bari dates‭, ‬south of the Dead Sea‭, ‬wrapped up this week and harvesting in the northern part of Israel will continue for a couple of more weeks‭. ‬Production of Medjool dates‭, ‬on the other hand‭, ‬is on the upswing‭. ‬Harvesting began in the southern part of the country and will move north over the next few weeks‭. ‬Medjool production is expected to last through August‭, ‬though‭ ‬product will be available from storage throughout the year‭. ‬“There are more growers and many growers have planted more trees‭,‬”‭ ‬said Field Produce Marketing’s CEO‭- ‬Avi Dagul‭, ‬explaining why there’s a 10‭ ‬percent bump in production this year‭. ‬“You have to wait between six to seven years from the time you plant a date tree until it yields fruit‭, ‬and we are seeing more young trees reach maturity‭.‬”

More growers are entering the Medjool date business because that variety has been very popular in Europe‭. ‬Attractive prices‭, ‬which spur more growers into planting dates‭, ‬are partly affected by the lack of competition during the Israeli export season‭.‬

“Tunisia only has Deglet Nour dates‭, ‬so there is no competition there‭,‬”‭ ‬noted Avi‭. ‬“The U.S‭. ‬and Mexico mainly sell their dates in North America‭. ‬South Africa only has small quantities and their season doesn’t overlap with ours‭. ‬There are new plantings in Morocco‭, ‬Jordan and Egypt‭, ‬but those trees are not producing fruit yet‭. ‬It will take‭ ‬five or six years before we’ll see competition‭, ‬but then it will be a tough one‭.‬”

For now‭, ‬Israeli exporters enjoy good value from the European market‭, ‬which takes about 80‭ ‬percent of Israeli Medjool export shipments‭. ‬Avi laments the fact that there’s no coordinated marketing effort between all of the country’s exporters‭, ‬but that hasn‭’‬t been a problem so far because the market has been so good‭.‬

“Demand for Medjools grows every year‭,‬”‭ ‬he said‭. ‬“The problem is not really demand‭. ‬Our biggest problem is the exchange rate between shekels and euros‭, ‬as well as the problem with the United Kingdom leaving the European Union‭.‬”‭ ‬He added that shippers are looking into Asian markets in order to mitigate the effects of any problems with the European market‭, ‬but that’s still a work in progress‭.‬

As far as diversifying product offerings‭, ‬Avi pointed out the success of the Bonbon variety‭, ‬which is a premium date that has gained a devoted Market following France‭. ‬Though not widely available‭, ‬the variety has established a niche market among consumers‭ ‬who appreciate high quality dates‭.‬

“We have to invest in the Bonbon to increase the market for it‭,‬”‭ ‬said Avi‭. ‬“It’s a very tasty fruit‭, ‬but the logistic demands are significant because it requires special treatment‭.‬”

Originally published on Fresh Plaza:
9/5/2016