By: Nuzha al Saeghia
Dates and date palms are very common across the Arabian Gulf. Dates have been a staple food for the people of the region since ancient times. With such a long history, dates are an integral part of the cultures of the region.
With a high sugar content and nutritional value, dates have a wide range of uses. They can be eaten fresh or dried, and they can be processed into a number of other goods.
Syrups, vinegar, spreads, and jaggery are all made from dates.
People consume dates in several ways. Dates are rich in several vitamins, minerals and fiber too.
These delicious fruits contain oil, calcium, sulfur, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, copper and magnesium which are all beneficial for health.
Abundance of date palm trees in the Sultanate inspired Yaqoob Ahmed al Siyabi to start a small scale business in 1994 with just RO 10. Today, his project is the biggest dates packaging factory in the Sultanate.
Yaqoob’s factory, Samail Dates Factory, is considered as the oldest one in the Sultanate and situated in Al Ghubra in Samayil. In fact the abundance of date palms in the Sultanate and around Samayil in particular inspired Yaqoob to start his own factory. When he started the factory he was confident that he could gain the trust of buyers and clients by offering some competitive prices compared to other traders.
Talking about date palm trees leads us to the past, yet we must connect it to the spirit of the present. The roots of this tree are linked to the people in the Gulf and to the people of Oman in particular. They inherited the love for the tree through generations.
“Seventy per cent of the working force in the Samail Dates factory is Omanis. At one time there were about 300 Omani employees with a number of them women. Later, with the introduction of new technology the number of workers were reduced in the factory,” says Yaqoob.
He commented, “The credibility of our products is the first reason behind my success. For example, when clients come asking for a certain type of dates, if it is not available, I would frankly tell them that this kind is not available. I don’t want to lie or keep my customers waiting for long time, because it will cost me a lot later when they find out that I lied to them. Honesty is important when it comes to dealing with customers”.
“The products of the factory are exported to many countries around the world like China and some African countries. In fact, using modern equipment and devices facilitated the work in the factory. Now, we can easily finish the work efficiently and hygienically as these devices are incredibly fast,” he said.
In a wider aspect Yaqoob says, “The presence of this factory has also helped local farmers to sell their dates in large quantities to us. It also helps traders in the process of obtaining dates in large amounts”.
The date palm ranks second in terms of the economic importance in Oman due to its products.
“There are around 45 types of products we produce in the factory, including a new one recently introduced”.
Al Siyabi said that the support of the media is a major factor in the success of the factory. After participating at exhibitions inside and outside the Sultanate such as Kuwait and United Arab Emirates, the factory has been awarded certificates from Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and Sultan Qaboos University.
Al Siyabi’s advice to all young people who have an ambition to start their own projects is to begin with the first step.
It requires determination to continue a project as one may confront lots of challenges on the way ahead. The insistence to continue and the deep belief that the project will succeed are all what it takes to succeed.
SOURCE: OMAN DAILY OBSERVER