As Ramadan nears, Malaysian retailers are busy stocking up on the one fruit that is an ever-present during the 30-day long religious fast - dates.
Dates are consumed in great quantities for breakfast during the event, as they are naturally nutritious and full of energy for fasting Muslim worshippers, being made up of almost 70 per cent sugar in the form of glucose and fructose.
According to Mohamed Meera of import company Meera Sahib, his company sources dates from Egypt, Tunisia, Iran, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China and Pakistan.
"We have a new brand of dates called Meera Deglet Nour from Tunisia," Mr Meera told Malaysia's The Star. "This is the bestseller so far. Our online orders are better this year even prior to Ramadan." Fifteen per cent of Meera Sahib's date orders come via the internet.
"The dates are delivered throughout the peninsula via courier service to reach the customer the day after they place their orders. Payment is via credit cards, PayPal and through local bank transfers."
Mr Meera said most varieties of dates are available year-round in Malaysia. "We have full-time distributors in each state and we also have a network of distributors in other countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei," he said.
Most major supermarkets in Malaysia, such as Giant, Tesco, Jaya Jusco and Carrefour, have started selling dates in readiness for this year's Ramadan festival, which begins on 11 August and runs until 9 September.
In Bangsar Shopping Centre's Cold Storage outlet, Ajwa dates from Medina are selling for M$132.99 (US$42.11) per kg, with Medjool dates from California selling at M$69.99 (US$22.16) per kg. The retailer also stocked dates from China, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, with the latter's Kalahari dates priced at M$139.99 (US$44.33) for a 2kg package.
"We sell about 3,000 boxes of Medjool dates imported from California during the fasting month," said Adnan Lee, managing director of specialist fruit retailer MBG Fruit. Medjool dates are selling there for M$59 (US$18.68) per kg, while Tunisian dates priced at M$29.90 (US$9.47) per kg are also on offer.