Flying a palm to the UAE costs as little as Dh3.2 per plant
SOMERSET // Exporting date palms from the UK to the UAE is a less unlikely proposition than it may seem when the economics are considered: air-freight costs can be less than 5 per cent of a plant’s value.
Costs vary according to the date palm variety and how many plants are bought, but typically each plant sells for about £15 (Dh81.1), while air-freight from the UK to the UAE is priced from about £0.60 (Dh3.2) per plant. Before they are sent, plants must be confirmed as disease-free by UK government inspectors.
That a company producing date palms emerged in the UK is the result of about 35 years of history. It was more than three decades ago that a research project was set up at DPD to study how to grow orchids using micropropagation. “It started out as a couple of Portakabins, and it grew into the first large commercial plant micropropagation company in Europe,” said Dr Avril Brackpool.
That company, Twyford Plant Laboratories, had a research arm that focused on several plants, including the date palm.
Some of the first micropropagated date palms it produced in the mid 1980s were sent to Al Ain and are believed to have been the first of their kind planted in the Emirates.
DPD emerged after various bouts of restructuring. It was owned privately between 2000 and 2011, and since then has been a subsidiary of India’s Atul.
The company, which has about 35 staff, exports to about 20 countries a year, including to customers in India, Thailand, Yemen, Cameroon, Niger, Australia, Peru and Haiti. The main varieties it grows are Barhi and Khalas, but over the years, DPD has sold up to 30 varieties.
To clone date palms of additional varieties can take up to five years because of the length of time to produce sufficient shoots in the laboratory and to grow the plants. The time factor acts as a barrier to new companies trying to enter the market.
There are UAE-based companies producing date palms by tissue culture, including a UAE University laboratory facility and Abu Dhabi’s Al Wathba Marionnet, which exports.
Other companies carrying out similar work are based in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Morocco and Spain.
Updated: March 21, 2015 04:00 AM