End of season: The date growers explain why the reform does not scare them

Right these days, mid-October, the palm threshing season ends, which usually begins in August (depending on the growing area) and takes place during the Tishrei holidays. In Israel, dates are grown in the Arava region, Beit She’an Valley and the Jordan Valley, from the Red Sea in the south to the Sea of ​​Galilee in the north and the Yavneel Valley and along the Syrian-African rift, thanks to the prevailing heat in this area. According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, most of the date trees in Israel are majhul trees (655,000 trees), and accordingly over 80% of Israeli exports are majhul dates and the remaining 20% ​​are mainly palm palm varieties.

Dates in numbers

Israel is the world leader in the production of Majhool-type dates, with the majority of date exports being to the European Union and the United Kingdom. Amnon GreenbergThe chairman of Shulchan Tamar in the Plants Council. “Exports in 2020 were about 28,800 tons, of which about 26,000 tons from Jahul and the rest Tamar Brahi and Dekel Nur. 22,000 tonnes were marketed to the domestic market in 2020. “Despite the corona, thanks to the efforts of marketing companies and financial investment by the industry and the Ministry of Agriculture in marketing campaigns in Europe and the US with celebrities from around the world talking about palm virtues, we were able to increase exports from Israel in 2020 compared to 2019, when exports stood at 26,800 tons.”

Amnon Greenberg (Photo: Avishai Greenberg)

However, according to Greenberg, the increase in exports does not necessarily indicate the state of the industry these days. “The date crop in the country is much larger than the increase in marketing and this is where the problem lies,” he says. “It is true that exports have increased, but the amount of fruit, due to the extensive plantings made in the country, is much greater than the rate of exports and then surpluses were created that affected prices and caused prices to fall.”

What decrease is this?
“Prices in the local market have sometimes dropped by 50% or more, and this of course affects the return to growers. At such a level of prices there are growers who are in a state of making decisions to stop growing. Some are now in a state of being or ceasing because they are simply losing. “Exports have been declining, sometimes up to 20%. On the other hand, costs have gone up because of the corona – whether it’s packing house costs, the cost of working days and more – and all this is causing a very serious problem of profitability.”

Already last year, Greenberg says, surplus crops began to accumulate and then the corona also began. “These two things started pretty much in parallel,” he explains. “A large part of the fruit is sold in open markets abroad and this has greatly affected sales. Although exports have increased in the last year but if the markets were open, exports would have increased much more. Also, in terms of exports abroad, there is competition with Majhul coming from other countries . There are places that have entered extensive plantings like Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. They are today a significant factor in the Majhool market. Morocco, Egypt and South Africa are also entering quantities to the US and Europe. This also lowers prices and requires us to be very prepared and careful about the quality of the fruit. Marketing companies and packing houses make efforts to bring the best quality, and we have a good reputation abroad. But we see that an industry that was a great source of pride for several years is becoming problematic and must not collapse. “

How can the current situation be streamlined?
“A lot of money needs to be invested in strengthening marketing campaigns both in countries that are a promising market and in some countries that have not yet been exposed to this glorious Majhool. But entering new markets costs money, and here government assistance is very much needed. Entering new markets is expensive. With their money. “

“We started the peg at the end of August and it should be finished in the next few days,” says Oren Korin, a farmer who grows dates in the Middle Arava. , In early August, such as the Jordan Valley, Ein Tamar and Neot HaKikar areas. And there are areas that started later, for example in the area of ​​the Sea of ​​Galilee and the Valley of the Springs, and end a little behind us. “

Oren Korin (Photo: Guy Solomon)Oren Korin (Photo: Guy Solomon)

How would you sum up the current Gadid season?
“From a marketing point of view, it is still impossible to sum it up, we will only know at the end of next September. Although we are harvesting everything now, but because Perry has a long shelf life, it is marketed all year round. “Compared to 4,800 tons last year. This increase is due to new plantations that have been added and are now entering production.”

Plant only

According to Corinne, starting in 2012 began massive planting of date plantations throughout the country. “It’s a lucrative crop,” he explains. “It’s a crop that loves the heat and dryness we have here, so the risks are less. It also doesn’t need working hands at the level of vegetable crops like peppers and tomatoes. A date orchard is not an intensive crop, and its care days are relatively few for vegetable crops. “Solid in the agricultural industry. The date also allows the use of salt water, such as those available in the Arava. The price of dates is quite stable over the years and the shelf life of the fruit is very long.”

Today, out of 611 farms in the Middle Arava, 168 grow dates in orchards spread over 9,000 dunams, 99% of which are from Jahul. “Of that, 90% is for export and another 10% for the domestic market,” says Corinne. “We export to the US, Europe, Asia and even Australia. Recently, we have finally started exporting to the Emirates with Israeli branding as well. “

How was your corona year?
“We were left with stocks, because exports were eventually hurt as a result of the closure of the major open markets in Europe and the US. If these markets were open, they could export much more. The excess fruit created eventually caused a drastic drop in prices. Marketers also tried to sell at a loss and some went to donations. The past year has not been a loss for us but it has pretty much left us with a zero profit, or a very low profit share, which has not happened so far. “Our sales turnover in the Middle Arava on weekdays is NIS 140 million, and following the corona, it has dropped to NIS 100 million.”

Prices, Corinne explains, of course depend on the quality of the date and its size. Before the corona, the prices that the farmers would receive from the marketers ranged from NIS 12-32 per kilogram (depending on the size and quality of the date). After the corona, the prices are NIS 8-26.

Do you look back to normal numbers?
“It all depends on the corona. Lowering prices is very easy, raising it is much harder. Once the price has gone down, it is much harder to raise it again. “I believe this year will be a test year for dates. If global markets return to the strength they once had before the corona, then we can get back on the wave. We’re also dependent on exchange rates. Look what happened to the dollar last year. It’s also something that greatly affects prices.” .

Between the weevil and the reform

Many plantations around the country have suffered in recent years from the red palm weevil beetle that terrorizes palm growers and is responsible for the collapse of hundreds of palm trees in the country. “Until now, it was mainly in the Valley of the Springs, in the Jordan Valley and in the center of the country,” says Korin. “We in the Middle Arava have established with the Ministry of Agriculture many years ago a system for monitoring the red palm weevil, we have deployed traps throughout all the palm groves that attract these beetles and we do not suffer from it. Elsewhere there is still the presence of this beetle. Plant protection. “

Corinne himself grows 25 acres of dates, 100% of them from Jahul. “Agricultural reform will affect us less than vegetable or other fruit growers,” he says. “We are among the largest producers of dates in the world, so it does not seem to me that in light of the supply of dates that exist here in Israel, someone else will decide to import.”

How would you summarize the state of the industry today?
“Per capita consumption in both Israel and the world for dates has risen sharply in recent years. Part of the increase in demand for dates stems from the understanding that dates are superfoods.

There are also multiple marketers fighting for the same customers. The Ministry of Agriculture has been standing firm for many years on the whole issue of developing and promoting new markets. In my opinion, this was a task at the national level and not a task of the marketing companies. “

Currently, Corinne says, there is very large sales potential in new markets. “For example we are in the US but not yet in sufficient exposure. We have full dates, just need to open new markets. Also, our expectation is that the corona will calm down around the world and then the export of dates will also increase, both in volume and in terms of price per kilogram.

According to Corinne, about 4% -5% of the goat goes to the preparation of Seelan, whose presence has intensified in recent years in Israeli cuisine. “To make silane, you don’t have to make the dates look beautiful,” he explains. “Therefore, all the dates that are slightly damaged during the growth, or that are crushed a little during the sorting, or that their skin is separated from the date flesh, are taken for the benefit of the silane.”

There are large companies that produce natural silane such as Yad Mordechai and Tamar Kinneret and there are also towers that produce silane boutiques. “The demand for seelan has been growing all the time over the years. Seelan is a great solution for children and adults, it is a health product and there is also a vegan requirement that does not consume honey,” says Moti Nevo, From Moshav Hatzeva, which produces natural boutique silane sold under the “Seelan Nevo Hatzeva” brand at eight points in the country without intermediation gaps.

Moti Nevo (Photo: Middle Arava Regional Council)Moti Nevo (Photo: Middle Arava Regional Council)

The dates for Ceylon come from Nebo’s orchard. “These are very good quality dates but with less good visibility,” he says. “For example Tamar Mushlufa or Little Majhool, I take them for the benefit of the silane. If I put them on the market, I will get roughly the order of my expenses. If I produce natural silane from them, I will increase their value. That’s the idea.”

How much silane do you produce per year?
“As mentioned, I am a boutique manufacturer. Every year I get 1,800 glass bottles, half a liter each bottle. I sell a bottle for NIS 35, and three bottles for NIS 100. The silane I make is made in a special production process I developed. I built a production institute in the yard, “There I store the fruit and once a week it produces silane. All I have in my silane is a blend of the Majhool variety and the Hadrawi variety and that’s it.”

Seelan blends well with various dishes, but Nevo also has another tip: “Try Seelan with cold soda. It’s just great,” he recommends.

The choice of the chefs

Although one of the dates that grows in the land of Majhool is the official star, if you look at the culinary aspect, you see that Dekel Nur also has a place of honor. “Some people prefer to use Nur palm over Majhool because the taste of this variety is very honeyed. Also, because Nur palm dates are relatively hard, they are easy to store, they are not crushed and retain their shape,” says the chef. Inon Barry, Who does culinary events in the Middle Arava and private meals in the backyard of his home in Moshav Paran. “You can, of course, also use Majhool, Dekel Nur for cooking, and I also use the Brahi variety that grows in my yard. When it ripens, it becomes soft as butter. He also makes a chocolate ganache dessert with a layer of dates and nuts, and sometimes makes a green leaf salad from the garden with pieces of frozen dates. “

Inon Barry (Photo: Inon Barry Catering)Inon Barry (Photo: Inon Barry Catering)

Source: Maariv.co.il – כלכלה בארץ by www.maariv.co.il.

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