China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will help increase the Pakistan’s dates cultivation, says a report carried by Gwadar Pro on Thursday. The CPEC is poised to usher in a new era of trade and growth, Pakistani date growers pin their hopes on its different projects to help bring revolution in date farming. The newly built motorways under CPEC are making the dates’ market accessible to farmers and helping them bring the latest machines and modern farming tools to their farms in remote parts of the country. The report says, the consumption of dates, especially in its natural form, is an essential part of the Ramadan diet; dates are an unmissable part of iftar (breaking of fast) and sehr (pre-dawn meal). Dates are the third largest horticulture crop in Pakistan, which is found in all four provinces of the country. Pakistan produces one of the best dates in the world and the country has the potential to become a leader in date production and export; however, due to connectivity problems, lack of suitable agricultural machinery and date processing units, the desired results have not been achieved so far. According to the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), dates are cultivated over 99 thousand hectares of land with productions of around 540,000 tons annually. Pakistan ranks sixth in dates’ productions in the world with over 300 date varieties in the country including Dhakki, Dhakki Dried, Shareefa, Muzawati, Kupro, Hillavi, Aseel and Rabbi Etc. As the name Dhakki shows, these dates with exotic taste are cultivated in the Dhakki area of D.I Khan District in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Dhakki has established itself in national and international markets; however, market access is one of the problems that discourage farmers from growing dates on a large scale. Hakla-DI Khan Motorway (M-16), under CPEC, is near to its completion.2The 292-kilometer motorway will provide the farmers of Dhakki and other adjoining areas with easy access to the market. “Motorway would bring our products to the main markets of the country,” date grower Arsalan Baloch told Gwadar Pro and he added, “Farmers would no longer be exploited to sell their products at low prices.” According to Arsalan Baloch, the farmers would now utilize the motorway and would grow dates on all of their cultivable lands. “We would be able to frequently invite agriculture experts from Islamabad and other cities to examine our crops,” Baloch said. Muhammad Shah, another farmer said, “Dhakki is suitable for dates’ nurseries and our saplings have demands in markets but we could not send them to distant cities due to poor conditions of roads and long journeys,” he said and he added, “We would also bring the latest machinery to use them in our farming”. DI Khan and its surrounding districts of southern KP also lack dates processing factories and dry dates’ warehouses. The farmers of Dhakki are expecting dates processing units in their area in the near future. The use of fresh dates as table fruits is very common during the month of Ramadan; however, dates in dried form are also used for domestic and industrial purposes. There are various uses of dates in the industry, like making date paste, date syrup, date powder, date juice, dates jams, date honey, bakery items etc. The KP government has proposed 3125-acre Daraban Special Economic Zone D.I Khan under CPEC. The farmers of the southern parts of KP expect to have industries and processing units in the special economic zones. “Our dates and its products would be exported directly to foreign countries through the special economic zone,” Zahid Bittani, a farmer from Tank district told Gwadar Pro. Abdul Karim Tordher, Special Assistant to CMPK on Industries said that as first priority the government would provide space to industries and food processing units that process local raw materials. The Sukkar and Khairpur Sindh, Turbat and Panjgur are date clusters in Balochistan. Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, Bahawalpur and Multan are dates producing areas in Punjab. CPEC’s motorways are passing through all these dates producing areas of the country, making the jobs of the farmers easy. “Connectivity will help us increase dates farming and its yields,” Nan Lal, who deals in dates, told Gwadar Pro via phone from Sukkar, the report added.