How to Start Dates Processing Business in Pakistan

The objective of the article is primarily to facilitate potential entrepreneurs in project identification for investment. The project pre-feasibility may form the basis of an important investment decision and in order to serve this objective, the document/study covers various aspects of project concept development, start-up, and production, marketing, finance and business management.

The purpose of this guide is to facilitate potential investors in dates business in Pakistan by providing them with a general understanding of the business with the intention of supporting potential investors in crucial investment decisions.

The need to come up with pre-feasibility reports for undocumented or minimally documented sectors attains greater imminence as the research that precedes such reports reveal certain thumb rules; best practices developed by existing enterprises by trial and error, and certain industrial norms that become a guiding source regarding various aspects of business set-up and it’s successful management. Apart from carefully studying the whole document one must consider critical aspects provided later on, which form basis of any investment decision.

Following key parameters must be addressed as per business plan  study under preparation

Technology: The proposed project is about Dates Processing & Packaging. Its processing includes fumigation, sorting washing, drying, grading and finally packaging. The entire process flow is suggested to be semi-automatic requiring both skilled and unskilled workers.

Location: The plant is proposed to be located in District Panjgor while considering other mandatory inputs i.e. availability of human resource, electricity and water etc.

Product: The plant would initially process & pack raw dates fruit from farms & market into hygienically treated & properly packed Dates. The processing date varieties may include Begum Jhangi, Mazawati, Gogna, Jansor, Deshtiari, Basra, Zaidi, Kharaba, Assil, Roghnee and Peshnah etc.

Target Market: In addition to local markets in Quetta, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad an enormous export market for the Pakistani dates exists in India, Canada, USA, UAE, Germany, UK, Denmark, Australia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Dubai, Japan and China etc.

Dates Processing Production Process Flow

Dates are processed so as to deliver a clean and sorted healthy product which is free of insects or any harmful bacteria. Primarily, these are picked in such a way that they may not be contaminated with dust or sand from the farm. Then these are kept in clean crates for transportation to the processing plants. Care is also taken during transportation that these Dates are not open to dust or any filthy substances of the road. At the plant site the product is fumigated, sorted, washed, dried and graded before packing. At times, tabling is also carried out with wet towels to clean and produce uniform sizes of Dates. General process is shown in the flow diagram along comprehensive details are furnished.

Storage of Raw Material

Before dates go into processing these have to be stored properly in order to avoid flavor losses, texture modifications, weight loss etc. that can take place over a period of storing.

The following rules are generally observed for the purpose.

  • Dates are kept in shade.
  • Unprocessed Dates are protected from dust, heat and contamination and also protected from attack of rodents, insects etc.
  • At  each delivery these are checked for color, texture, taste and flavor.

Fumigation of Dates 

Dates become infected with insects during transportation and storage, which could results in spoilage of fruit. Fumigation is carried out to prevent fruits from insects and keep the fruit fit for human consumption. The method consists of keeping Dates in an air tight chamber and exposing them to a noxious gas for 72 hours. Among various fumigants methyl bromide (CH3Br) is most commonly used presently as it is highly noxious to insects.1 It is also injurious to human beings and proper precautions are to be taken and ensured before entering fumigated chambers. Fumigation by gases can be carried out at atmospheric pressure and under vacuum. The penetration of gases is more intense under vacuum condition and time effective but expensive method.

During last few years, tablets of hydrogen-phosphide, under the trade name Phostoxyn have gained popularity because it is easy to apply and suitable for small rooms or stags covered by polythene plastic sheets and left for about 9 days. These tablets consisting of aluminium phosphide, ammonium carbonate and paraffin, upon contact with air releases hydrogen phosphide, the active component. The ammonium carbonate is decomposed into ammonia and carbon dioxide, jointly acting as a warning and fire suppressing agent. The residue of tablet is a powder which can be removed after treatment.

Fumigation at atmospheric pressure is carried out under enclosures of tarpaulin or plastic or in permanent store room equipped with air tight doors, air circulation system and exhaust fans. 50 to 60 tablets of 3 gms standard are used to fumigate 1000 ft3 storage space.

The process of dumping/fumigation keeps on going on one hand while from the other side; the fumigated Dates are then passed to the other section, which is initial sorting.

Initial Sorting of Dates

The initial sorting is done manually where the workers sort the fumigated dates according to its condition and size. The rotten ones are separated and rest of sorted stock is further passed on via conveyor belts to the next step that is washing.

Conveyor Belt

The conveyor belt with steel edges is used to transport the Dates to the next section. This special belt is made up of aluminium to keep the quality of Dates consistently good and avoid rust.

Washing of Dates

In this section the Dates passes through rotatory washing drums with water showering nozzles. The water is then automatically drained through it from the small pores in the conveyer belt.

Drying of Dates

This is the final processing stage where the washed Dates are dried using diesel or gas fired. Ovens by applying heat though blowing hot air on it from different angles. The dried date is then transported through another 15 feet conveyor belt which takes it to the packing section while graded manually on the way.

Grading of Dates

Dates are graded to produce homogeneous quality and size according to the specifications of national / international market or specific standards. Dates are graded manually in shape, size, color, skin and even flesh. color, size and test vary with respect to their varieties. Grading is market driven, this step/stage of processing is done in manner according to market. The rejected Dates have also market i.e. for by-products manufacturing.

Packaging of Processed Dates in Pakistan

The processed Dates will be packed by the shrink wrap machine in plastic bags for additional protection and preservation of moisture, before being placed in boxes. The boxes could be of different design and weights (1kg, 2kg, 5kg etc) based on consumer’s demand. The boxes of half Kg, 01 and 02 kg can be used in this project or as per demand of the customer.

In addition to local markets in Quetta, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Islamabad an enormous export market for the Pakistani dates exists in India, Canada, USA, UAE, Germany, UK, Denmark, Australia, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Dubai, Japan and China etc.

Invest Required for Dates Processing Plant Business in Pakistan

Total Cost Estimates is Rs. 92,998,665 with fixed investment Rs. 88,435,791 and working capital Rs. 4,562,874. Details of these financials can be studied in the dates processing business plan by SMEDA.


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