KARACHI: With the onset of Ramadan, commercial activities gather pace at the largest date market in Pakistan, where retailers and wholesalers rush to purchase the most sought-after commodity in the country during the Muslim fasting month.
Khajoor Market is situated in the Lyari area of Karachi. Established before the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the market has started thriving once again since security in Karachi has considerably improved following recent operations by law-enforcement agencies.
While selling dates can be lucrative at any time of the year, the business acquires greater momentum in the run-up to Ramadan.
This is reflected in a sudden increase in the number of venders in the area, from 100 shops and kiosks to sometimes nearly 200.
The market not only caters to Karachi’s needs but also other parts of the country. Pakistan meets 50 percent of its demand by importing dates from Iran, though it also buys significant quantities from Iraq, Saudi Arabia and other states.
But most importers and dealers complain about cumbersome import processes. “We’re facing problems due to import permits that… not only increase our costs but consume a lot of time,” Hanif Baloch, chairman of the market association, told Arab News, adding that freight costs have also gone up.
Due to high demand for dates during Ramadan, retailers and wholesalers raise prices. “Dates that are usually available for 70-80 Pakistani rupees ($0.61-$0.69) per kilogram are now sold for more than 120 rupees,” said retailer Ahmed Hussain.
The world’s fifth-largest producer of dates, Pakistan is focusing on increasing local production — currently about 650,000 tons per year — since the country is situated in an agro-ecological area where high-quality dates can grow on a massive scale. Sindh province contributes around 50 percent of dates.
Muslims worldwide like breaking their fast with dates, which are a good source of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. They are also a good source of energy since they contain sugar and fiber.