Date Palm Developments is a horticultural company based in Somerset that specialises in the micro-propagation of date palms, exporting around 150,000 of them to some of the driest regions in the world.
The company’s export turnover has tripled since 2014 and now sits at £4m.
Last year the company opened a new green house facility, which according to Avril Blackpool, the company’s Managing Director, will “double or more the company’s capacity for export” in the coming years.
Micro-propagation, which is just like taking a normal cutting of a plant but on a much smaller scale, offers the opportunity of providing high-quality, disease free plants, therefore having many advantages over the traditional propagation method.
Date Palms can be used for reclamation and stabilisation of soils for example in farming areas of Sub-Saharan Africa and are becoming a valued part of projects to combat desertification, while having the potential for bio-fuel production. They are grown as a commercial crop, but they provide a valuable income for small farmers through India, Thailand, and The Gulf.
The business started in the UK in the late 70s when the science of plant propagation was in its early days and was first being developed commercially.
The company started trading in The Gulf, but in 2011 it was approached by an Indian company called Atul Ltd which bought the company out. Atul Ltd had a special interest in sustainable agriculture and had a joint venture with the Rajasthan government to help build the Date Palm industry in the region.
DIT (The Department for International Trade) has strong links with Atul Ltd in India, and according to Avril; this has allowed the company to grow its exports through the invaluable contacts DIT has been able to connect them with.
A quarter of their sales come from India, but the company also exports to Australia, Egypt, Sub-Saharan Africa, South America, Thailand and the UAE.
“Hilary Charman, our International Trade Adviser, has been a very good contact and has been providing us with extremely useful knowledge during our export journey. She’s always a joy to talk to and the sense of being connected and having someone to turn to with questions is great. It’s the information stream that is so valuable.”
The company has also received assistance from DIT in the form of market research and has attended webinars to allow it to develop its export strategy.
“Who would have thought that Date Palms were being grown and exported from Somerset? … was my first thought when I visited the company a few years ago to offer help from DIT, and it has been an exciting journey ever since.
“I would ask other companies who are looking for new opportunities overseas to reach out and see how we can support you.”
Commenting on the advice she would give companies looking to grow their exports Avril said:
“We have built on long, historical contacts so we have that advantage. It’s very important to get to know the local market and find a good contact who you can sit down and talk with and get to know to help drive your exports forward.
“You have to do the groundwork and find the right partners to be successful.”
Get in touch
To discuss your own export options with one of DIT’s International Trade Advisers in the South West contact 01275 774 456 or visit www.great.gov.uk to find out more about the range of support available as well as live export opportunities. DIT’s services in the South West are delivered by Business West. For further information, click here.