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A date with a date factory

posted on 10/08/2003: 4222 views

Emirates Date Factory (EDF), the largest date processing facility in the UAE, is planning to expand the network of its showrooms and retail outlets all over the country. The move aims at increasing the factory's domestic market share and offer its products throughout the country, said Musalam Obaid Al Ameri, general manager of the factory.

The plant, equipped with sophisticated machinery, was established in 1998 in Al Saad area in Al Ain with a capacity of processing 20,000 tons of dates. The factory utilises the best selected, fumigated, washed and graded varieties of the fruit from the farms located in different parts of the UAE. Al Ameri said a team of experienced professionals and engineers supervise the functioning of the factory, including date processing under strict quality control standards and hygienic measures.

"We have a strong presence in the local market. We are exporting 70 per cent of our total production to more than 20 countries in the world," said the general manager. The facility has continuously been expanding its market share and generating partnerships in other countries. Its main showrooms are currently located in Al Jimi Mall in Al Ain and on Istaqlal Street in Abu Dhabi.

The factory has been producing a wide range of products, many of which are made as per the customer's requirements. Dates are packed in cardboard boxes, foam plates, plastic boxes, and tissue bags to accommodate different quantities from 250 grams to 25 kgs. Other products include filled coated date sweets, vacuum dates, pressed dates, date paste, date syrup, date jam, mudabbas, ground pits, sparkling dates drink, fancy dates for gift packages, and dry date pulp.

Al Ameri said the EDF is considered to be the most advanced, the largest factory and the highest investment project in the field of date processing and marketing in the UAE. Covering an area of 225,000 square metres, the plant has seven departments and 21 production lines that are using the most modern technology of the world. The factory has a total of 510 employees.

Its main goal is to secure the value of date products in the country, helping date palm farmers to actively contribute to the economy. "Our ultimate target is the consumer from all over the world, the related food industries and animal feed stock holders. Our products are natural and hygienic, prepared from a wide range of well-selected dates and packed in modern packaging materials by highly sophisticated machinery."

The investment capital of the project is US$45,000,000. The factory has been using modern state-of-the-art machinery including many lines of processing and modern civil works infrastructure. "Our vision is to be the most outstanding and advanced processing date plant in the world to produce healthy and hygienically selected dates in the region." Al Ameri added the factory classifies different varieties in accordance with their weights, colours, and sizes. "Our annual turnover is satisfactory and we are making every possible effort to boost it further with new products utilising the latest marketing methods and technologies."

Dr Samir H. Al Shakir, technical manager of the EDF, said eight different popular types of dates are used in the factory to make different products. These types include Khalass, Lulu, Barhi, Rezaiz, Buma'an, Jabri, Fardh, and Khuneiz.

He said the factory has been supplying tailor-made products, including date-based sweets, to different business establishments including Abu Dhabi National Hotels Company. The plant has employed hundreds of national and expatriate women who are working in different sections of the factory. The visitors can see many of these employees absorbed in arranging dates in beautiful packing and designs that are either in popular demand or requested by the customers.

Dr Al Shakir said the plant has recently started marketing new products that include vinegar, chocolate wafers, medical alcohol, liquid sugar, sparkling drink, pitted coffee, and animal feed. "These products are available in the UAE market and they are very well received by the customers." He also mentioned that some studies were being conducted to change certain products in accordance with the public demand. "We are very much in the business and are continuously finding ways to enhance the production and sales of the factory."

There are many ideas, he said, to change different products without any major change in the production line. "We are considering them and will hopefully implement them in the near future." Al Ain, he said, has a very special relationship with the date palm as it is built around oases that are producing dates for thousands of years. President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan encourages agriculture, particularly date farming, since the palm has a great cultural value.

Sheikh Zayed describes the tree as "central to our culture and survival for as long as history and archaeology record. For us the date palm is, and always has been, truly the 'tree-of-life'. We have grown up with this remarkable species and its many products and find it impossible to imagine life without it."

Under his instructions, Al Ain Oasis is not only being properly maintained but also new date trees have been planted on the streets and in the gardens of the city. Abu Dhabi is the largest producer of dates in the country and the establishment of the date processing factory in Al Saad, some 45km away from Al Ain on Al Ain-Abu Dhabi Highway, aims at utilising the produce, said Dr Al Shakir.

According to estimates, there are 16 million date palms in this emirate. There are another four million palms in the six other emirates of the country. The UAE has recorded a tremendous increase in the number of the trees over the last three decades. The total number of date palm trees has grown to nearly 41 million, stretching over an area of 1.85 million hectares.

The highest population of date palms is believed to be concentrated in various oases of Al Ain region. There are a total of 1.108 million date producing palm trees in Al Ain region, spreading from Al Khazna to Al Faqa. Many new date palm farms have been developed in the region. The Department of Forestry and Al Ain Municipality and Town Planning Department are also engaged in the drive to plant more trees in areas such as Mubazzarah. It is believed that the trees planted in this area will start producing dates in 2005.

The region's date produce is expected to increase manifold in the near future. According to Al Ameri, the plant has sufficient capacity for the time being. However, it can be considered when the need is felt. Dates are the UAE's major crop and this country is the seventh largest producer in the world after Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Algeria. (The Gulf News)


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