The export of dates from Israel will amount this year to US$25m, mainly to West Europe, according to David El-Ad, General Manager of Hadiklaim, the marketing arm of Israel Date Growers Cooperative, the largest organization in Israel incorporating date growers and packing houses. Hadiklaim export volume is 80% of the total, the remaining quantity is exported by Agrexco, Israel's agricultural export company.

El-Ad said that dates plantations in Israel cover an area of 2500 hectares, stretching from the Bet She'an Valley near the Sea of Galilee through the Jordan Valley to the Arava, the southernmost region of the country. Farmers growing dates apply intensive, modern cultivation technologies to sustain 235,000 trees bearing several varieties, of which the Medjoul variety is gaining prominence due to the rising demand for this variety.

Compared with other countries, such as Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt and Saudi Arabia - "our date plantations are small in number of trees, but due to high yields and high quality, Israel is a major player in the date trade in Europe," El-Ad said. The total date yield for 2000 is estimated at 16,500 tonnes , of which nearly 6,500 tonnes are exported. Of this export volume, the Medjoul variety captures a senior position with 4,500 tonnes, El-Ad said. The main markets for the Israeli dates, shipped during the autumn and winter periods, are Spain, Italy, France, and The UK. The Hadiklaim group has an agreement to market the Medjoul variety grown by Karsten Farms Klein Pella, the largest date plantations in the Southern Hemisphere situated on the banks of the Orange River in the semi-desert Northern Cape of South Africa, known as the Bushmanland. This deal enables Hadiklaim to supply dates twice a year, from Israeli plantations during the autumn and winter and South African dates during the spring, El-Ad concluded.