In view of the current oversupply of common dates on the EU market, of the low level of prices and of the tendency of consumers to shift towards higher quality products, there seems to be little scope for a large increase in exports of common dates to the EU. The profitability of this activity for a newcomer would be very low, even with low production costs. A similar trend has been affecting the deglet nour market since the mid-1990s. Although investments in more modern processing facilities will likely lead to improvements in product quality, the expected rise in supply due to investments in large plantations in North Africa is expected to keep prices at a relatively low level, much lower than their level of the 1980s. In order to improve prices, marketers of deglet nour would have to invest in promotion and advertising campaigns to convince consumers to switch from common dates to deglet nour. In this case, the markets that should be targeted are northern European countries, as consumption of common dates is still relatively high there compared to deglet nour.
From the above paragraph it can be concluded that any country wishing to enter the EU date market would need to turn to “non-traditional varieties”. Of these, mejool seems to be the most promising. Demand is rapidly expanding. Supply is presently limited to essentially two countries and although there are plans to expand capacity, there seems to be room for new entrants. The profitability of mejool trade is high due to the comparatively high level of prices, even though this level is not sustainable in the long term. The successful development of mejool dates will rely on the willingness of supermarket chains to carry this product. On the producer side, it will require an excellent marketing organization in order to guarantee timely deliveries and high product quality.
Conversely, the potential for hayani and bahri seems limited due to the relatively small number of people who know and like these varieties (mainly an ethnic market). Moreover, in the case of hayani, large-scale retailers seem reluctant to carry this type of dates due to the fact that it is a frozen product.
Finally, producers should consider, when appropriate, the possibilities offered by organically grown dates, as the organic market is growing rapidly in many developed countries. As more and more consumers turn to organic foods, retailers will look for a complete range of organic products, including dates (FAO 2001).