Oman Daily Observer
Muscat, Aug 5: An Indian entrepreneur has launched an innovative refreshing drink made of date seeds imported from Oman and chicory. The drink, which is generally used with milk and sugar, can be a substitute for coffee and tea.
P Ponnudurai, managing director of Lion Dates Impex Pvt Ltd, the largest importer of Omani dates, said his company was the first one in India to launch such a product. The refreshing drink called ‘Takof’ is prepared by mixing roasted date seeds powder with chicory.
Ponnudurai, who was on a short visit to the Sultanate to meet date exporters in the interior region, said his company has received a laboratory report from India’s Central Food Technology Research Institute on the ingredients of the newly introduced drink. “Since we have launched the product only four months ago, we are yet to promote it. I have plans to export it to other markets,” he added. A 50-gm pack of ‘Dates Takof’, which is sufficient for preparing 20 cups, is sold for Rs 5.
Sources at Omani Centre for Investment Promotion and Export Development (Ociped), which organised the visit of Ponnudurai, said people in the interior region were using such a refreshing drink in ancient days when coffee powder was unavailable in the country. “People in several parts of Oman were using date seed powder for preparing drink as dates were in plenty and coffee power was unavailable,” said Faris Nasser Mohammed al Farsi, Director of Facilitation in Export Marketing at the Ociped. Even now, local people in Sharquiya region use processed date seed powder flavoured with cardamom to prepare light refreshing drink.
Lion Dates makes a variety of products from Omani dates. These include quality seedless dates, syrup, pickle, jam, sauce and ketchup. Lion Dates, which is also the only producer of dates syrup in India, makes syrup from pure date extracts and contains no additives and preservatives. It is consumed as a health drink mixed with warm milk. “Our imports from Oman have increased tremendously in the recent past. From merely three containers in 1995, we have imported 25 containers (500 tonnes) of dates last year,” said Ponnudurai. “We import dates with and without seed. Omani dates are the best in terms of quality,” he added.
After sorting out dates, seeds are removed in hygienic condition at well-maintained factories. Thereafter, dates are packed in different types of refill cartons, pouches and airtight containers in different ranges. “It has given Lion products an international reputation among local and foreign customers,” he noted. “Our date imports from Oman will exceed 500 tonnes this year. The dates production in the Sultanate this year is better as there wasn’t any rain during the season in the interior region,” he added. “We have been exporting date products to Singapore and Malaysia,” said Ponnudurai.
Lion Dates, which has been importing dates from the Sultanate for the last 11 years, has promoted dates on a large scale in the Indian market. Starting operation in 1978, the Trichy-based company has grown in terms of operation and its employee strength is hovering around 1,750. In 2000, Ociped conducted a study on enhancing date exports to India, which is the largest importer of Omani dates. India, which levies a 30 per cent customs duty on dates, is also the world’s second largest importer of dates, after France.