First pomegranates from the Kurdistan region of Iraq appear on shelves in UAE

The fruit is the first non-oil export from the Kurdistan Regional Government to the Gulf

Pomegranates being harvested in Kurdistan. Photo: Kurdistan Regional Government
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Shoppers in the UAE will now be able to buy pomegranates grown in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region.

Hanar pomegranates, the Kurdistan region of Iraq's most famous fruit, have hit the shelves of UAE retailers Lulu and Carrefour.

“This is the first and largest non-oil export initiative that has happened after much hard work and diplomatic initiatives between leaders of the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government) and the UAE,” Jaleel Salihi, a senior analyst at Prime Minister Masrour Barzani's office, told The National.

The delicious fruit will be exported from nearly 100 farms in Halabja and Zakho to the UAE where they will be re-exported to other Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, Mr Salihi said.

Pomegranates from Halabja and Zakho “have an advantage and are in global demand because they are free of chemical fertilisers and pesticides,” he said.

“So they are naturally grown.”

The fruit is part of Iraq's Kurdistan region's identity. Every year Halabja hosts a pomegranate festival to showcase its products.

Pomegranates at a Lulu's in Dubai. Photo: Kurdistan Regional Government

“You cannot go to a Kurdish home without having some,” Mr Salihi said.

Mr Barzani said Kurdistan's premium grade pomegranates are hitting supermarkets across the Gulf as promised, on Twitter.

More than 500 tonnes have already been exported and the KRG is looking to expand to Europe.

The exports to the UAE are estimated to be about worth about $1 million in the first phase and to reach $4 million by 2023.

The KRG has just conducted its first cycle of trial shipments, Mr Salihi said, adding that after the holidays the government is expecting to “start a full stack of orders to wholesalers in the UAE.”

“We see Dubai as a hub for Kurdistan and its [products] can be re-exported to other countries. There is a high level of co-operation that has been translated to the working teams between the KRG and the UAE,” Mr Salihi said.

“This is an initiative and proof of concept that Kurdistan can export and its agricultural projects are exportable and export-worthy,” he said.

Since the Kurdish pomegranates are new to the market, it may take time for UAE customers to get used to them.

Updated: February 01, 2023, 12:26 PM