Zaytoun Medjoul Dates: Meet Ruba Halaiqa from Palestine
Zaytoun sources fairly traded Medjoul dates from Palestinian palm groves in the Jordan Valley. Known as the ‘King of Dates’ because of their plump flesh and rich caramel flavour, they make a delicious ethical gift for friends and family.
The growth of the Medjoul date sector over the last decade has become a vital source of income for Palestinian farmers in the Jordan Valley, as they strive to grow trade opportunities in order to retain their own land, against the daily struggles of living under military occupation and the threat of expanding Israeli settlements. Israeli dates are often cheaper because they are grown predominantly on illegal settlements that usually operate on a mass scale of production, whereas Palestinian farmers don’t receive state subsidies and face restrictions on movement, resources and access to water.
Ruba Halaiqa, loves her work as a Quality Manager for a major Medjoul date producer in the Jordan Valley; a job she’s held since gaining her university degree in biology and medical technology. It’s a busy role, and Ruba is tasked with overseeing all the company’s quality assurance procedures to ensure that dates supplied to Zaytoun are consistently of the highest quality. Since she started working at Nakheel Palestine in 2011, she’s seen the company’s international sales grow, bringing opportunities to create more value in their supply chain and offering employment to more farming families in the Jordan Valley.
These new job opportunities in a safe and healthy environment are a welcome alternative to working in illegal Israeli settlements, which was often the only employment option available in the Jordan Valley. Work on settlements is often on casual contracts with no job security. In contrast, the jobs created by the growth in local date production offer long-term prospects, as well as engaging more women in rural areas and attracting investment that ripples out to wider economic growth. This is important to those living in a region that is sorely affected by lack of access to water for irrigation due to the Israeli occupation, as well as severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods which make it difficult to get products to local markets.
These limitations create extra costs for marketing and exporting produce, so growth is essential for a company like Nakheel and the producers in its supply chain.
Ruba values the support of Zaytoun’s customers year on year, and their interest in learning about the obstacles that growers need to overcome in order to get the dates to market.
“Education is key to enable our international customers to understand what makes our dates so special, and the complex process involved in taking them from tree to plate.”
She was delighted when the Medjoul dates she meticulously helps produce won a UK Great Taste Award in 2018, a result of the hard work she and her team puts in to closely monitor the quality of the dates at every stage of their journey from the farm.
“The award is a recognition of our efforts and we are thankful to receive it”.