The total annual world production of date fruits was reported to be 5190 thousand tons during the 2000 crop year, and is expected to increase further due to the efforts taken by various countries to encourage and popularize date palm cultivation through modern tissue culture techniques (FAO, 2000).
Iran leads the world in date fruits with a total production of 930 thousand tons in 2000 (Table 22.1). The other major producers of date fruits are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Algeria, Iraq, and United Arab Emirates (UAE). The recent advances in tissue culture techniques and the improved agricultural practices will definitely boost the date fruit production in this part of the world in the coming years.
For marketing purposes, most of the fresh dates at the khalal and rutab stages of maturity are packaged in wooden or plastic crates (2–3 kg/crate) and offered for sale in the fruit and vegetable markets in these countries.
However, dates at the tamer stage of maturity are packaged in tin cans, plastic bags, or straw baskets, either in a pressed or in an unpressed form.
These date fruits are bought by the consumers from the date markets usually located in a central place in the town (Sabbri et al., 1982). Although the major portion of dates are consumed at the tamer stage, a significant amount of khalal date fruit is also being consumed.
Thus, the marketing prospects for fresh dates at the khalal stage have opened up interesting opportunities to extend their shelf life and consumer acceptability (Al-Hooti et al., 1995a). Some of the pertinent problems in date marketing such as the lack of a proper layout of markets, improper handling of produce, an unclean environment, inferior packaging and wrapping materials, and unhygienic storage methods need to be tackled by the food technologists.
Asia is the largest importer and consumer of date fruits in theworld.Within Asia, China and India are the major importers of date fruits. In the European Union, France is the leading importer followed by Germany. In North America, the United States is the main importer of date fruits, followed by Canada.