ZZ2 date harvest in time for Ramadan
South African producer ZZ2, better known for their tomatoes and more recently avocado pears, is currently packaging the dates harvested at their Namibian plantation in February. ZZ2 started with their own Namibian date production a few years ago.
Harvesting took place in late February and early March. We are currently busy packing them,” explained Clive Garrett from the company. “The timing of the Namibian date harvest fits in perfectly with Ramadan as we will have finished packing and will be ready to start marketing the fruit just before it begins.” This year’s harvest, however, will only be able to target Muslim communities in southern Africa as the relatively small harvest does not merit export to other countries.
Domesticated dates palms take around four years to come into production. Garrett said they are now starting to see the fruits of their labour after having started a joint venture with two other companies to produce Medjool dates in the Orange River region where the company has planted 80 hectares.
There are plans to expand this area soon, but according to Garrett it is not that simple, “Dates take a long time to come into production so it is a big investment. Also good propagation material is very hard to come by. The trees which are producing are four years old with the youngest being newly planted” he explained.
“There are very few places in the world where you can grow dates successfully. They need extreme temperatures and plenty of water and Namibia has the perfect conditions of extreme heat, no rain but a good water supply from the Orange river and no risk of frost” he added.
“Other producing countries are Israel, Jordan and California in the United States which are all in the Northern Hemisphere and counter season to Africa. For the next few years the Namibian area will be in season during Ramadan” said Garrett.
For ZZ2 it has been a very difficult growing season with extremely high temperatures and low humidity during the fruit ripening period. Garrett said that they were worried about the low level of the Orange River at one stage but it has subsequently returned to normal.
ZZ2 have harvested in the region of 20 tons this season and are continuing to expand the area planted, which now stands at 95 hectares. There are approximately 32 hectares currently in production.
“Due to the very low volumes this year we will only be servicing the local market. We will however fly out some samples to Europe to start testing the market for next year,” he said.