Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia produces an estimated 1.5 million tons of dates annually Image Credit: Supplied

Cairo: Saudi Arabia, the world’s second producer of dates, plans to be the top global exporter of the highly nutrient-rich fruit.

With its output of dates accounting for 17 per cent of the world’s overall production, the kingdom boasts diversity and prospects for further growth.

Saudi Arabia produces an estimated 1.5 million tons of dates annually, with exports of 184,000 tons worth SR860 million, according to the Saudi news agency SPA.

The number of palm trees in the kingdom has reached 31.2 million, covering 107,000 hectares. There are 157 plants in Saudi Arabia for processing dates.

“The date sector is living up to ambitions as it has recorded growth in value and amount of its exports in the first quarter of 2020 by 48 per cent in value, with revenues of 397 million riyals and 54 per cent in terms of quantities with 85,000 tons, compared to the same period last year,” said Chief executive Officer of the National Centre for Palms and Dates (NCPD) Mohammed Alnuwairan.

“Work is under way to set into motion several initiatives to boost quality of the produce, increase exports and consolidate identity of the Saudi dates,” he added.

In 2018, the NCPD launched a Saudi date benchmark to guarantee quality of the product and good farming of palm trees. The centre also launched, in conjunction with the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Agriculture, guidance standards for Saudi dates, comprising 18 locally grown types based on a categorisation of three levels: premium, prime and secondary. The categorisation takes size and weight into consideration.