Kashmir: Keeping date with DATES
From Pakistan through Middle East, to Tunisia and Palestine -
I A M BHAT
The consumption of dates picks up during Ramadan, throughout the Islamic world . Reason, it is used to break the fast. Kashmir is very much part of this tradition.
Bashir Ahmad, Parimpora Fruit Mandi, one of the main importers of fresh dates says that Date market only lasts for Ramadan. According to the information he provides, dates would come to this place for centuries now, with traders from Middle East countries bringing them here. Dried dates earlier would usually come to our place from Pakistan via Jehlum Valley Road which now is managed through a barter trade across id the LOC since 2005.
These days the traders in Kashmir receive their stock from Delhi or Amritsar also, with many dates being imported from Middle Eastern countries. In the past consignments of soft dates would come wrapped in date palm leaves, which now has been replaced by a compressed polythene packaging, even though this type of date is of inferior quality. But there are hygienic packagings also. Such dates too are imported directly from Middle East countries where such processing units are many.
The bulk retailing of dates, particularly the low priced ones, happens still through street vendors; people mostly purchase dates from them. Mubashir Ali, working as Management Trainee for Shafi Agro Enterprises, a franchise dealer of UAE based date company, says that it is this unhygienic practice of selling dates in open that denied this wonderful fruit frim becoming a part of our dietary habit round the year. It has been witnessed that that the major marketing outlets sell inferior quality dates. “ A consumer is not satisfied from what he had so far,” says Mubashir adding that an inferior kind procured from Iran, India and Pakistan is boiled in jaggery - unrefined sugar made from palm sap before being packed and sent into the markets. People now usually refuse to break their fast with this boiled version.
Hamidullah Dar the Public Analyst (Food Analyst) at the government run Food Testing Laboratory tells that apart from the use of jaggey - that consumers find difficult to trace in this sweet fruit - samples from the market have also indicated dates laced with polishing agents that make them attractive for the customers. So not only the dates sold by street vendors, even some packed ones too have been found infested with insects. So there is caution to be observed by the customers; check the packing dates before you buy the packed ones.
Dates are the best diet available. Dates are a rich source of energy, containing major vitamins and proteins, potassium and masses of fiber that make them easily digestible. Ali stressed that vlaue of dates as a heath supplement needs to be emphasized. In our valley where these could be highly useful during colder months, we only consume them in the month of Ramadhan. Their company not only displays health benefits of dates on the packs, but it now has decide to go for an aggressive marketing campaign after Ramadan. It will showcase the product portfolio that includes date-syrup, dates with chocolate, and nut stuffed dates, so that people become aware of how beneficial dates are. The company is aiming to eliminate the market of inferior quality dates.
However,many dealers say that even though people now prefer hygienically packed dates, many still consume the low quality stuff - reason, they are cheap. Rs 100 per kilogram .
The dealers say that the Indian market that has been pegged at consuming dates worth 6 lakh Metric Tonnes (MT), 2.5 lakh MT compromise the low priced stuff. Kashmir also may be receiving thousands of tones of this fruit in Ramadan, though dealers mostly import dry date from Pakistan for the rest of the year. With access to hygienic stuff Kashmir markets too are inviting high end products with the best coming from Palestine/Israel.
Last year some such supply came from Delhi, but this year it has come down as it’s out of range for the common man ; with its cost being Rs 2000 per kilogram. However, some dealers in Lalchowk have brought them, and some of varieties are being sold at Rs 4000 per kilogram. However many Palestinian groups have been urging though social media to boycott these dates. Not only for known political reasons, but also for the fact that it involves child labor.
The dealers here say that quality wise they are the best. Many high end varieties now come from Jordan , while Tunisian dates too are gaining market here.
Scanning the market it can easily be observed that on an average a kilogram of packed date costs Rs 160 while superior varieties sells at Rs 500.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 12 Aug 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 12 Aug 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 13 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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