Jordanian dates become the go-to smart food of Ramadan

During the holy month of Ramadan, Jordanians take great pride in having dates as a staple on their tables. This smart functional food is the first thing consumed by those who are fasting, as it swiftly replenishes the body’s energy levels. Experts worldwide hail dates as a wonder food, and Jordanian dates, produced by 750,000 palm trees spanning across 45,000 dunums, are renowned for their exceptional quality. A recent study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition has revealed the incredible health benefits of dates. Bursting with vital nutrients, dates are a potent source of energy that rapidly replenishes fasting individuals. They not only safeguard the brain against inflammation and oxidative stress but also provide ample dietary fiber and are loaded with natural antioxidants and total phenols, making them an outstanding dietary supplement. Anwar Haddad, the head of the Jordanian Dates Association, highlighted that 40 percent of Jordanians’ date consumption takes place during Ramadan. He emphasized the importance of incorporating dates into one’s diet year-round and across all age groups, as they are regarded as smart functional food. Haddad noted that the dates industry currently adds an estimated value of $50 million to the economy each year. However, projections anticipate a substantial increase in this number, up to $150 million or even $200 million in the years to come. This growth can be attributed to the fact that the cultivated area of palm trees, which is currently at 20 percent of the Jordan Valley’s total area, is expected to continue expanding, according to Haddad. He explained, “In Jordan, we have approximately 45 thousand dunums of palm farms, home to over 750,000 palm trees. Our production stands at around 30,000 tons, with 20,000 tons of the premium Medjool variety, followed by 13 percent of the Barhi variety and 7 percent of other varieties.” He emphasized that the yearly increase in cultivated areas ranges between 12 to 15 percent, and there is both horizontal and vertical expansion in production. It is expected that the number of palm trees will reach one million in just a few years. Haddad also highlighted that there are approximately 500 palm farms in Jordan, with 350 specialized in cultivating the premium Medjool type. Over 12,000 tons of dates, primarily Medjool, are exported to more than 15 countries worldwide, owing to their perennial popularity and high demand. He made it clear that Jordanian Medjool dates have become a household name worldwide, representing a sizable 15 percent share of the global Medjool market. Moreover, Jordan ranks as the ninth country globally in terms of the export value of dates of all types, and the thirteenth in terms of quantity exported to the global market. He pointed out that Medjool dates originally hail from Morocco and were subsequently introduced to America and the Middle East. However, he attributed the exceptional quality of Jordanian dates to their farms’ unique location in the Jordan Valley, which is situated below sea level and provide ideal conditions for natural ripening. During the growing season, Medjool dates in Jordan mature under gentle temperatures, akin to simmering on low heat as Haddad put it. He also emphasized the exceptional skill and expertise of Jordanian farmers in cultivating and producing dates of unparalleled global quality. In regard to the export of Jordanian dates, he stated, “We export 65 percent of our total production. Over the past five years, there has been a surge in the establishment of state-of-the-art packaging industries and workshops. Currently, there are about ten companies in Jordan specializing in packaging, sorting, and storing dates, using top-notch international technology.” Nutritionist Tahani Jazzazi noted that dates fall under the category of dried fruits and are therefore naturally high in calories, as opposed to fresh fruits. Additionally, the nutritional value of dates varies between different types of dates. The expert pointed out that dates are rich in calories, with a 100-gram serving of Medjool dates containing 277 calories, primarily in the form of carbohydrates. Jazzazi emphasized that dates are rich in antioxidants, which play a crucial role in combating aging and preventing diseases. This is due to their capacity to neutralize harmful free radicals that can cause health issues when their levels exceed the required limit.

Source: Jordan News Agency