Europe, and in particular the European Union (EU) is a key market for date exporters. Although the EU imports of dates represent only 10 percent of world imports in volume, they account for some 30 percent in value. This reflects the fact that EU import prices for dates are comparatively much higher than the world average. However, the value of EU imports has been relatively stagnant over the last decade and import prices have declined since 1996. It is therefore important that exporting countries find new date products that could increase the value of their exports.
To this end, FAO contracted a specialized consultant to study the potential of various date varieties (including "non-traditional" ones) in the EU market. The study found that there was room for increased imports of deglet nour dates (or other varieties with similar taste and texture) provided high standards of quality (including low infestation rate), packaging and traceability could be met. However, prices were not expected to increase substantially from their present level. Mejool has attracted major interest in the United Kingdom and France and fetched high prices. It appeared to have good market prospects but some logistical constraints due to the low supply volume and retailer hesitations still needed to be solved. Conversely, the potential for hayani and bahri seemed limited to a small ethnic market.