The UAE-based Al Barakah Dates Factory LLC is planning to expand its operations into India by setting up a packing and processing facility for bulk dates and dates ingredients like pastes, syrups and powders for marketing pan India.

The firm has already entered into a JV with Candor Foods Pvt Ltd, Mumbai, in January 2022 for the promotion of UAE dates and other dates varieties, including its brand across India under a new JV company called Candor Dates Pvt Ltd. “The setting up of the processing facility by investing in plant and machinery would be in the second phase to increase production locally for which the company allotted funds to the tune of $20 million,” Yousuf Saleem, Managing Director at Al Barakah Dates Factory LLC said.

The processing facility in Navi Mumbai is expected to be ready in 2024 with a targeted production capacity of 50,000 tonnes, he said adding that low production cost and a large market in India is an added advantage.

“We are currently creating an effective distribution network across India by investing in creating awareness through educational marketing campaigns, social media channels and developing the direct-to-consumer channels through our partners across India”, he told businessline.

He went on to add that CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement) between Indian and UAE benefit would immensely boost the trade of dates, as there would be around 22 per cent savings in duty, which would be a massive one as far as the company is concerned.

Value addition is absolutely crucial in dates as clients across the globe look at innovation of dates products especially in alternative sweetener and healthy eating industries.

“We have signed agreements with large FMCG companies and traditional sweet manufacturers across India for the supply of dates syrup, paste and powder, as they wanted to replace conventional sugars with a much healthier alternative that fares better on the glycaemic index over conventional sugars”, Saleem said.

“Value addition in dates brings its nutritional aspect which is the key reason for using dates products as an ingredient in other food products compared to the traditional markets where it is commonly used for religious purposes,” he added.

Import data

India, according to Saleem, currently imports around 290,000 tonnes of dates per year and of this, 54 per cent is from Iraq, followed by Iran (23 per cent) and UAE (15 per cent). “Post Covid-19, the market has seen significant growth as people started looking towards healthy eating and alternative sweeteners. The market will grow and the pie is big enough for all especially with innovation,” he added.

At the same time, the availability of duplicate products in the Indian domestic market from other origin countries is posing a concern. India and UAE are working towards bringing legislation to resolve the crisis. “India is a market on its own and we need to develop by investing in processing capabilities”, he said.

Currently, Al Barakah’s largest export market for whole dates is Bangladesh, followed by Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka. However, for the ingredient business, it is North America followed by Europe. The company sources 70 per cent of the dates from UAE and the remaining from Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Tunisia, and Oman

Al Barakah Dates factory in Dubai Industrial City is designed to process over 100,000 tonnes of date and date products annually – equivalent to almost half of the UAE’s entire domestic harvest.