ISLAMABAD (APP) - Pakistani dates exports can be enhanced to between $200 million and $240 million per annum with proper processing and packaging. Currently, the country earns around $28 million from its exports, which does not reflect the real potential of this sector. This was stated by Harvest Tradings Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jawad in a statement issued here. He was of the view that lack of proper processing and packaging facilities, matching with the international standards, is one of the major reasons for less exports. "Since dates are perishable in nature, these facilities should be provided at farms to tap full potential of the crop", he observed. He elaborated that in all areas of Pakistan, farmers generally look for timely rains to harvest a better crop. It is however reverse in the case of dates growers. During July and August, when the date palms are in full bloom, dates growers, due to lack of modern scientific and technological facilities, use 'spiritual' methods as preventive measures to save crop from monsoon rains. "Taweez" (amulet) hanging by date trees is a common sight in dates growing areas in Sindh and Balochistan. He said that annual production of dates in Pakistan is estimated at around 535,000 tons, of which only 86,000 tons is exported and the rest is either consumed locally, or perishes for want of different facilities. The CEO Harvest Tradings maintained that since 1999, per acre yield of dates in Pakistan had not much increased, whereas the worldwide production had increased by 166 percent. Date palm needs immediate attention from producers, exporters, government and even public/private creditors. The production and the percentage export of date palm shows a declining pattern over the longer period. The government needs to pay urgent attention towards production, processing and quality enhancement, preservation, research and marketing facilities to save and ensure growth of this potent source of foreign exchange. Due to the dearth of these facilities, dates are just dumped abroad at throwaway prices. In addition, developed importers of date palm, as Germany, Denmark, and UAE, are re-exporting Pakistani dates, after quality enhancement and preparation of by-products, at a price which is 4 to 6 times higher than their import price. Other major importers of Pakistani dates include India, Nepal, US, UK, Afghanistan, and Canada. "Out of the 300 varieties of dates produced in Pakistan, Begam Jangi of Balochistan, Aseel of Sindh and Dhakki of Dera Ismail Khan are the varieties which are much sought after the world over due to their exotic taste, but due to lack of processing and packaging facilities these highly valuable varieties do not fetch their real worth in the export market", he remarked. Ahmad Jawad emphasized that this fruit is potent to make many more millions of dollars if care is given and due attention is paid towards value-addition, like the use of dates in confectionaries, preparing date sweets, jams, chocolates, and other products. Even the damaged crop is used for medicinal purposes. Dates oil is also fit for use in cosmetics. In this connection, he pointed out that there is an excellent platform for business community in the shape of chambers of commerce and industry which could make a positive contribution in promoting exports and locating outlets abroad. But, he said, there is need to enhance their roles and understand their responsibilities in a practical way. They should have a vision for each sector and draw some long-term strategy and convince the government to implement it; Jawad added. Unfortunately, however, the chambers' work is seen only in their press releases, he said. Exporters are surviving through their own contacts. "Trade fairs and exhibitions, which the government arranges, are not the only solution." "We have to clear our image internationally and move forward with the help of relevant government authorities and, in this, the chambers have to play an important role," he said.