Dates from Pakistan, Middle East flood Kashmir markets

SRINAGAR: Dates from Pakistan and Middle East are flooding Kashmir during this Ramadan. Local dealers say that dates from these countries are gaining popularity here.
Bashir Ahmed, one of the main importers of fresh dates at Parimpora Fruit Mandi, said that date market this time is much vibrant than the previous year. “Dates are an important import commodity. This time we are witnessing 40 percent rise in its import,” he said.
People prefer to break their fast with dates as they are a rich source of energy, containing major vitamins, proteins, potassium and masses of fibre that make them easily digestible.
Ajwa date, which comes from Saudi Arabia, is very popular among people here, as it’s believed to have been the favourite fruit of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). It costs around Rs 2500 per kilogram. Next comes Iranian dates which are of seven types.
“People like to break their fasts with Ajwa date,” Ahmed said.
In the past, Ahmed said, consignments of soft dates would come wrapped in date palm leaves, which now have been replaced by a compressed polythene packaging.
“Many hygienic packed dates too are being imported directly from Middle East, where such processing units exist,” said Ahmed, adding that this is the reason they retain their shelf life.
Claiming the market for dates is undergoing a tremendous change, the dealers say the previous Pakistani dry date ‘Shuwara’ was not a date of choice.
“But from last two years people are beginning to accept date as a usual fruit and not a Ramadan special item,” said Mohammad Aslam Wani a date seller in Koker Bazaar market of the city.
According to Wani, the sale of dates rises to 70 percent during Ramadan. He said that value of date as a heath supplement needs to be emphasized. “In Kashmir, dates could be highly useful during colder months. But many of us still consume them only in the month of Ramadan,” Wani said.
The traders here also receive their stock from Delhi or Amritsar. But the low quality dates sold in the market are of concern to the sellers and buyers. Both say that cheap dates are not processed through a safe mechanism to prevent infection. “People buy them only as they are cheap,” said Wani.
“Regarding quality dates, one is assured that they are not adulterated like the ones which hawkers sell. You have dates in air tight boxes and one is relieved for having a good quality product,” Ashfaq Naseem, a customer said.
Another customer said, “Earlier one had a limited option in dates, but now one can choose from quality dates.”