Dates of ecstasy

Dates of ecstasy
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Dates Of Ecstasy. City consumes 2,500 tonnes of dates during Ramzan.

City consumes 2,500 tonnes of dates during Ramzan

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Sameer Sarmast leaves the house every day and does not forget to carry his wallet, keys and … a packet of dates.

“I carry a little bag of dates as it is healthy and tasty,” says Sameer, a techie.

He totes the baggie for one specific reason: to break his daily fast. The month-long observance of Ramzan, intended to purify and refocus the soul, begins this year on June 28. In the weeks that follow, Muslims will fast from dawn to sunset, taking neither food nor water. While the foods they eat and drink when the sun is down may vary from culture to culture — there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, according to Pew Research Center, spanning every inhabited continent — most will break the fast with dates.

Hyderabadis consume about 2,500 tonnes of dates during Ramzan giving it the status of being the city which consumes highest quantity of dates among the Indian cities.

Ramazan also is the boom time for lorry operators as they make about 150 to 200 trips during the month from Mumbai. With Ramadan, just less than two weeks and likely to start on June 28, the traders in Begum Bazaar have already started procuring fresh stock. These varieties include both local and foreign mostly procured from Gulf countries. The business of dates at Begum Bazaar peaks during this month and the total sales during the holy month alone is estimated to be worth Rs 500 crore. Begum Bazaar alone procures some 2,000 tonnes of dates.

Brands from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Algeria have already reached godowns of traders of the city. Raj Kumar, proprietor, Kashmir House, said, "The business of dates in Ramzan in Hyderabad in particular is unlike anywhere in the country and the turnover runs into hundreds of crores. Though dates are available throughout the year, it is only in Ramzan that such phenomenal business activity is seen. The popular choices this year are varieties of brands from Iran and Saudi Arabia such as Medjoul, Mariyam, Hozafati, Shayani and Ajwa."

“Ajwa and Medjoul are said to be the top varieties among dates and most preferred. It was believed that Ajwa plantations were planted by Prophet Mohammed himself and had great medicinal value,” says Rajesh Tandon of Punjab House.

The Ajwa variety was sold between Rs 1700 and 1800 last year and it is likely to be sold for anywhere between Rs 2000 and Rs 2500. The other preferred varieties include Safawi, also known as Kalmi in India, which was sold between Rs.600 and Rs 650 last year.

Even though there are about 200 varieties of dates at the international market only a few varieties arrive in Hyderabad. The top international brands procured by the traders of Begum Bazaar include, Kimia, Harmony, Symphony, Rukhsana from Iran and Date Crown, Taiba from Saudi Arabia and Sun Fruit and Barari from Tunisia.

Imported from the Middle East, dates arrive at the port cities of Jamnagar in Gujarat and Mumbai. It is from here that wholesalers procure dates and retailers in turn buy dates from them. Ironically, hardly any indigenous dates arrive in the market. A trader requesting anonymity noted that dry dates, though less in quantity, come from Pakistan. He added that Hyderabad was the only city in which the business of dates was conducted in 'white'.

Industry experts said that there would be an increase in the price of dates by up to 40 per cent. Even though there were fears that the price would touch a new high this year, the traders say that the price rise would not be more than five to 10 per cent.

“There won’t be a huge impact on the price, as there is ample stock arriving to the city. But once the season begins, it may rise depending on the demand”, says Shankarlal of Khakani traders. According to the traders, almost three lakh population who fast during the month consume these dates. Apart from Hyderabad, the direct procurement of dates is made from cities of Vijayawada and Vizag during the recent years.

“Now that the state has been divided, the traders in Andhra Pradesh may not procure from us,” quips, another trader.

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