The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/1463-5771.htmBIJ18,3 A comparative study of dates export supply chain performance: the case of Oman and Tunisia386 Msaﬁri Mbaga Natural Resource Economics Department, College of Agriculture and Marine Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman Mohammed Suleiman Rashid Al-Shabibi Ministry of Agriculture, Muscat, Oman, and Houcine Boughanmi and Slim Mohamed Zekri Natural Resource Economics Department, College of Agriculture and Marine Sciences, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is two-fold. First, is to apply the benchmarking approach to the dates export supply chain (DESC) in Oman and Tunisia (taking Tunisia as a benchmark) to identify gaps in the organizational and operational structures of the DESC in the two countries. Second, is to utilize the information generated to put forward recommendations to improve Omani DESC. Design/methodology/approach – Four benchmarking dimensions are developed, each dimension with a number of key performance indicators (KPIs). The KPIs are then used in the benchmarking exercise. Findings – Results show that Tunisia is performing better than Oman in all the four dimensions. Originality/value – The study enables the readers and the stakeholders to gain some valuable insights in the subject matter. A careful analysis of the ﬁndings should enable Oman policy makers and stakeholders to produce an industry action plan to correct the gaps and take the lead. Keywords Sultanate of Oman, Tunisia, Exports, Performance criteria, Benchmarking Paper type Research paper 1. Introduction The date industry is an important component of the Oman economy and date is a leading cash crop. According to the 2005 census, there are an estimated 7.8 million date palm trees grown throughout the Sultanate, occupying about 50 percent of the planted area, employing a signiﬁcant number of Omani people directly and indirectly. Statistics shows that in 2006 the Sultanate ranked ninth in the world in date production far behind its neighbors such as Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (Table I). Date production has been declining since 2001, the year date production reached its highest level in the Sultanate in recent years (FAO, 2008). Export disincentives whichBenchmarking: An International include poor quality output, absence of a well-coordinated supply chain and lack ofJournal aggressive export promotion, together with the 2002-2004 drought, have been widelyVol. 18 No. 3, 2011pp. 386-408 recognized as being the reasons behind the decline in date production.q Emerald Group Publishing Limited Based on Table I, we see that Oman and Tunisia have consistently ranked ninth and1463-5771DOI 10.1108/14635771111137778 tenth, respectively, among the ten leading date producers in the world. However, even
Dates export 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 supply chain World 4,966 5,447 5,624 6,172 6,503 6,724 6,653 7,092 6,682 6,704 1. Egypt 741 840 906 1,007 1,102 1,090 1,100 1,166 1,170 1,170 2. Iran 877 918 908 900 900 879 885 880 997 997 3. Saudi Arabia 649 648 712 712 712 830 884 901 970 970 4. Iraq 750 913 764 932 907 866 868 875 404 404 387 5. UAE 288 290 535 757 757 757 757 760 859 859 6. Pakistan 537 722 580 613 630 625 630 622 497 507 7. Algeria 303 387 428 366 370 418 492 470 516 491 8. Sudan 180 200 240 332 330 330 330 330 328 328 9. Oman 185 236 282 280 298 239 220 231 247 25910. Tunisia 95 103 103 105 112 115 111 122 125 125 Table I.Note: 1,000 tons Main countriesSource: FAO Statistics producing datesthough Tunisia ranked tenth in terms of date production, the country ranked fourth(Table II) in terms of date export volume. Furthermore, Tunisia ranked ﬁrst and thirdwith regard to date export value and date export unit value, respectively. In 2005, forexample (Table II), while Tunisia exported 50,180 metric tons (40 percent of itsproduction) at a price of US$2,008 per metric ton, Oman managed to export only 4,090metric tons (1.65 percent of its production) at a price of US$290 per metric ton. It is therefore clear from that Tunisia is performing better than other countries in theregion in terms of export unit value and export value. In addition, even though Tunisiaaccounts for only 2 percent of world dates production, its share of global exports in valueis around 30 percent (FAO and Table I). Given that an estimated 7.8 million date palm trees are grown throughout theSultanate of Oman, occupying about 50 percent of the planted area, one would haveexpected Oman to be a leading date producer and exporter in the region. Statisticspresented above, however, show that Oman is lagging behind in terms of date exportvolume and export value, while Tunisia is leading (Table II). Country Volume (Mt) Country Value (6,000 US$) Country Unit value (US$) 1. Iran 117,060 Tunisia 100,769 Israel 4,480 2. Pakistan 84,060 Iran 68,495 USA 3,188 3. Saudia 51,450 Israel 40,836 Tunisia 2,008 4. Tunisia 50,180 Saudia 32,456 Algeria 1,702 5. UAE 23,880 Pakistan 29,775 Jordan 942 6. Algeria 10,860 Algeria 18,492 Saudia 635 7. Israel 9,120 USA 13,723 Iran 585 8. Egypt 8,880 UAE 8,830 Egypt 551 9. USA 4,300 Egypt 4,893 UAE 37010. Oman 4,090 Jordan 2,155 Pakistan 354 Table II.11. Jordan 2,290 Oman 1,184 Oman 290 Dates export volume, value and unit valueNote: Volume multiplied by unit value may not be exactly equal to total export value because of for the main exportingrounding countries based on 2005Source: FAO Statistics statistics
BIJ Furthermore, for the last nine years (2001-2009) as indicated in Table III, the internal18,3 consumption (IC) of dates in Oman was only 49 percent of total dates production, This leaves 51 percent of dates produced in Oman potentially available for export. Therefore, there is a need for benchmarking so as to ﬁnd ways to improve the dates export supply chain (DESC) in Oman. Based on these facts, Tunisia is taken as a benchmark or best practice among date-producing countries.388 The purpose of this study is therefore two fold. First, is to apply the benchmarking approach employed by Garcia et al. (2004) to the DESC in Oman and Tunisia (Tunisia as a benchmark) so as to identify gaps in the organizational and operational structures of the export supply chain in the two countries. Second, is to utilize the information generated (regarding the gaps) to put forward recommendations to improve Omani DESC. This paper is organized as follows: Section 2 provides a description of the DESC in Oman and Tunisia. Section 3 reviews the literature on benchmarking and supply chain. Section 4 presents the methodology and includes the various key performance indicators (KPIs) used to identify and quantify gaps in Oman’s and Tunisia’s DESCs. Section 5 presents the results and discussion. Lastly, Section 6 presents the conclusions and policy recommendations. 2. A description of Oman’s and Tunisia’s DESCs 2.1 Oman DESC For the purpose of this paper, dates supply chain (DSC) is deﬁned as the various stages through which dates are channelled starting from farm until it reaches the consumers. Generally, the DSC includes three main stages: (1) production and harvesting; (2) initial processing at farm level, processing and packaging at factory level and transport to the port; and (3) handling of dates at the international markets by wholesalers, retailers and consumers. DESC, therefore, can be deﬁned as steps through which dates undergoes, starting from post-harvest until dates arrives at the port of the exporting country. Stage two in the DSC is more or less the DESC itself. Activities in stages one and two of the DSC are performed in the exporting country – in this case Oman and Tunisia. Stage three activities are performed in the importing country. The marketing channels are a set of interdependent organizations involved in the process of making a product or service available for use or consumption. The DESC in Oman is one of the marketing channels that include: initial processing at farm level, Item 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010a TP 298 239 220 231 252 259 261 267 273 280 IC 123 125 118 120 123 127 132 134 133 135 Export 13 9 9 5 5 5 9 7 7 9 Excess 162 105 93 106 124 127 120 126 133 136Table III. IC as a percentage of TP 41 52 54 52 49 49 51 50 49 48Oman dates production,consumption an export, Note: aIndicate a forecast for 2010 based on a time trend2001-2010 Source: Ministry of Agriculture (Statistics Department)
processing and packaging at factory level and transportation to the port. Generally, Dates exportit is how the dates are produced, sorted, graded, processed, packaged and transported supply chainthat determines their ﬁnal export market value. Furthermore, safety and qualitymanagement of dates along the DESC plays a very important role in the determination oftheir ﬁnal market value. Currently, there are around four dates factories (exporters) inOman beside several small processing units mostly for local consumption. 3892.2 Tunisian DESCTunisia is the world-leading producer of Deglet-Nour date variety and most of thedates-producing oases are concentrated in the Southern part of the country. Tunisiapossesses approximately 50 percent of the world’s Deglet-Nour palm trees. The ofﬁcialproduction ﬁgure in 2006 was 125,000 tons for all varieties, of which about two-thirdswere Deglet-Nour. The dates export sector in Tunisia is ranked third at export level afterolive oil and seafood products. Dates production in Tunisia is characterised by ﬁve typesof date varieties: Deglet-Nour, Allig, Khouat Allig, Kenta and Farmla. But Deglet-Nour isthe most popularly produced variety and better appreciated as a noble variety because ofits quality and ﬂavour. Signiﬁcant investments in modern Deglet-Nour plantations andan aggressive marketing strategy have led to a steady increase in exports. While exportsranged between 15,000 and 20,000 tons in the ﬁrst half of the 1990s, exports reached25,000 and 50,180 tons in 2000 and 2005, respectively. Dates destined for the export market are treated in more than 30 processing factoriesregistered for exports. Dates export account for about 40 percent of total production (TP).Although Tunisia accounts for only 2 percent of world date production, the countryranks ﬁrst in terms of export value and fourth in terms of export quantity (Table III). Thisis mainly due to the high market value of the Deglet-Nour variety, a good quality product,well appreciated in foreign markets, leading to higher market share. In general, Tunisiais well positioned in high-value markets with high purchasing power. Compared to itsdirect competitors, Tunisia represents 55 percent of EU imports in value. Tunisian datesare mainly exported to European countries accounting for more than 81 percent of totaldate imports and other Arab countries in second position with 15 percent of total dateimports. Around 70 percent of Tunisian dates exports are processed dates. Tunisia’s top20 clients in the international markets during 2005 are as presented in Table IV. The DESC in Tunisia is organized into somewhat comprehensive and complexmarketing channels. All the agents are involved: producers, collectors, conditioners,exporters, wholesalers, etc. As most of these market participants operate individually andindependently, it is difﬁcult to monitor and control their actions. As a result, it is difﬁcult toprovide an estimate of the exact volumes of dates handled by each one. Date marketingtakes place mostly in the last quarter of the year (October to December), and during theholy month of Ramadan. Given the strong tradition of date consumption in Tunisia, a largeshare of production is consumed within the country and especially in the producing areas.Dates for the domestic market are often bought by wholesalers and semi-wholesalers fromthe collectors (Laajimi, 2002). Decisions concerning the distribution of dates betweenexport markets and domestic markets seem to be taken by collectors. They are the mainmarketing agent in the supply chain. They ensure the supply of dates to wholesalers,exporters and conditioning and packaging industries. Exports operations are undertaken ´´either by foreign trade enterprises (Societes de Commerce International) or by theconditioning and packaging industries – dates factories (Laajimi, 2002).
BIJ Country Export quantity (tons)18,3 1. France 16,601 2. Morocco 9,405 3. Italy 6,179 4. Spain 4,794390 5. Germany 4,095 6. Belgium 1,765 7. UK 1,700 8. Russia 1,388 9. Switzerland 909 10. Turkey 855 11. Indonesia 588 12. Senegal 533 13. Canada 492 14. Holland 476 15. Mauritania 407 16. Hungary 355 17. UAE 346 18. Malaysia 291Table IV. 19. Greece 257Tunisia’s clients in the 20. Bosnia and Herzegovina 233international marketsduring 2005 Source: GidF (2005) 3. Literature review Benchmarking also known as “best practice benchmarking” is an approach used in management and particularly strategic management, in which organizations evaluate various aspects of their processes in relation to best practice, usually within the same sector – for example, in this case, Tunisia and Oman in relation to DESC. This then allows organizations to develop plans to adopt such best practice, usually with the aim of improving their performance even beyond that of the best practice. Benchmarking may be a one-off event, but is often treated as a continuous process in which organizations continually seek to challenge their practices. The benchmarking process is, therefore, valuable to producers and or companies in opening up many different ideas about processes, approaches and concerns (Allan, 1997). The benchmarking approach was ﬁrst developed in the USA during the late 1970s by Xerox Corporation. It has since then been an effective way of improving productivity and competitiveness, and in fact today benchmarking has become a widely practiced and generally accepted method of assessing performance. The benchmarking approach is very versatile; it has been applied in many areas, from assessing public policy, as in Helgason (1997); in the food industry, as in the UK Food and Drink National Training Organisation (2001, 1998); in dairy, as in Anon (2005); in strategic planning in agriculture, as in Ronan and Taylor (2004); in food and beverage, as in Deloitte (2009); in grain supply chain, as in Barnes (2007); in food and drinks, as in Luther and Abdel-Kader (2006); international competitiveness in agriculture, as in Thelwell and Ritson (2006); in analyzing information ﬂow to farmers, as in Verissimo and Woodford (2005); in agriculture performance indicators, as in Wilson et al. (2004); in analyzing good agricultural practices, as in UNCTAD (2005); in analyzing fruits and vegetable supply
chain, as in UNCTAD/WTO (2007); in the area of quality management and productivity Dates exportimprovement, as in UNIDO (2002); in agriculture in relation to fresh produce quality supply chainand safety management, as in Garcia and Poole (2003); in locating and leveragingmanufacturing best practices, as in Brandt and Taninecz (2004); in assessing microﬁnanceinstitutions across countries, as in Stephens (2004); in agriculture in relation to greenhousegas emissions, as in CLAN (2006); in assessing government organizations, as in Howardand Kilmartin (2006); in evaluating and comparing the performance of federal agencies, as 391in USDA (2008); in evaluating the sustainability performance of food supply chains, as inYakovleva et al. (2009) and many more. The process of benchmarking is more than just a means of gathering data on how wella company performs against others. It is also a method of identifying new ideas and newways of improving processes to better meet the expectations of customers. According toOmachonu and Ross (1994), the ultimate objective of benchmarking is processimprovements to meet and whenever possible exceed customer expectations.Benchmarking as a methodological tool has been gaining attention among academicsand practitioners as a means of strengthening the ability to compete (Yasin, 2002). Thebenchmarking approach has an internal dimension whereby an organization criticallyexamines itself in search of the best practice, as well as an external dimension whereby theorganization analyses its industry and other domains in an attempt to identify externaland competitive practices, which may be implemented in its operating environment(Yasin, 2002). In this study, both the internal and external dimensions are implemented. To date, there is no single benchmarking process that has been universally adopted.The wide appeal and acceptance of benchmarking has led to the emergence of variousbenchmarking methodologies. The most prominent methodology is the 12-stagemethodology by Camp (1989), which consists of the following: (1) selection of the subject in advance; (2) clear deﬁnition of the process; (3) identiﬁcation of the potential partners; (4) identiﬁcation of data sources; (5) data collection from selected partners; (6) gap analysis; (7) establish process differences; (8) target future performance; (9) communicate; (10) adjust goal; (11) implement; and (12) review/recalibrate.A shorter version of the methodology as proposed by Camp (1989) includes six steps,namely: (1) identify problem areas; (2) identify other industries that have similar processes; (3) identify organizations that are leaders in these areas;
BIJ (4) survey companies for measures and practices;18,3 (5) visit the “best practice” companies to identify leading edge practices; and (6) implement new and improved business practices. Broadly, this shorter version will be adopted in this study. This study seeks to analyze the DESC in Tunisia and Oman in order to identify392 gaps in the organizational and operational structures of the DESC in the two countries. The information generated will then be used to put forward recommendations to improve Omani DESC. Generally, supply chain encompasses all the facilities, functions and activities performed in the process of producing and delivering a service or a product (in this case dates) from suppliers to the ﬁnal customer (Russell and Taylor, 1998; Sparling and van Duren, 2003). More speciﬁcally, the concept of supply chain management (SCM) can be deﬁned as collaboration among actors in a supply system, from the primary producer to the ﬁnal retailer, with the aim of satisfying the consumer at lower costs possible. SCM in relation to agricultural commodities therefore focuses on improving efﬁciency and effectiveness in the system in order to deliver a wide range of safe and desirable agricultural products in a cost-effective manner. The performance of ﬁrms and the industry particularly with respect to food safety and quality standards is strongly inﬂuenced by the structural characteristics of the food chains, the strategies of individual ﬁrms and the level of coordination of the food system (Poole et al., 2002). With recent concerns regarding food-borne diseases, now food supply chains must be efﬁcient, transparent and “traceable” as consumers expect to be able to trace each food item back to its earliest production stage. Traceability helps to increase consumer conﬁdence on the product and hence value. Supply chains that are less ﬂexible and inefﬁcient, where supply chain processes and procedures cannot be upgraded very quickly, and products are not traceable, become a major impediment to trade (Garcia Martinez and Poole, 2003). Implicit in the benchmarking framework is the notion of gap analysis, namely, the difference between the level of operations in a given organization and that within a best practice company. Comparisons made within benchmarking are often about understanding the gap. Making comparisons against best practice or stated aims allows companies to assess the nature of the improvement that they have to make in order to catch or surpass world-class competitors. Analysis of gaps from base (current performance) to benchmark (current performance level of the best companies) helps companies to prioritize resource allocation (Balm, 1996). Identiﬁcation of critical performance measures (or KPIs) and their comparison with similar performance measures of “Best in Class” organizations is at the heart of benchmarking (Bhutta and Huq, 1999). Identiﬁcation of the proper measures is a fundamental part of the study as they represent the yardsticks, which tell people how well they have done, and as such motivates them to achieve higher targets (Zairi, 1994). The information sought in benchmarking usually consists of the following two parts: (1) qualitative business process descriptions; and (2) quantitative performance data used to determine the differences in performance levels among the companies being compared (Andersen et al., 1999). The next section shows how key benchmarking principles from the literature reviewed above have been utilized in this study.
4. Benchmarking methodological framework Dates exportIn businesses today, it is commonplace to benchmark practices and performance against supply chainother companies, both at home and abroad. Typically, ﬁrms aspire to best practice as ayardstick, wherever this is feasible. This study applies the benchmarking approachemployed by Garcia et al. (2003) to analyze the DESC in Oman and Tunisia. The aim is toidentify gaps in the DESC taking Tunisia as the benchmark or the best practice. Thisstudy, however, adds to the body of literature in that it goes beyond the Garcia et al. 393(2003) by incorporating some additional simple quantitative indicators to enrich theanalysis.4.1 Development of benchmark measuresThe identiﬁcation and development of proper benchmark measures is a fundamentalpart of benchmarking. Benchmark measures focus on dimensions of performance thatreﬂects a ﬁrm’s capabilities to meet current export supply chain demands byinternational customers. In this study, these critical dimensions have been broadlygrouped into qualitative and quantitative groups. The qualitative group has beenfurther sub-divided into three dimensions. The quantitative group, however, has onlyone dimension. Each of the four dimensions has a number of KPIs associated with it. TheKPIs for dimensions 1-3 were developed to reﬂect the characteristics which describeinternal and external business behaviour of the ﬁrms in the industry. When comparedwith “the best practice”, the KPIs will lead to the identiﬁcation of a performance gap.These KPIs will therefore be used to identify and quantify the performance gap betweenTunisia and Oman. Dimension 1 investigates how the export SCM practices arecoordinated in Oman and Tunisia. Table V presents a summary of KPIs that formdimension 1. There are altogether eight KPIs for dimension 1. Dimension 2 looks at safety and quality orientation of the export supply chain inOman and Tunisia. Safety and quality of exports are very important ingredients as faras the export business is concerned. Table VI presents a summary of KPIs thatrepresents dimension 2. There are altogether six KPIs for dimension 2.Areas analysed Key performance indicatorsCoordination of the Exporter-producer information sharing. This reﬂects the directness of theexport SCM practices relationship in terms of communication of requirements, speciﬁcations and regulations Exporter-importer information sharing. This reﬂects the directness of the relationship in terms of communication of the requirements, speciﬁcations and regulations Market orientation. This reﬂects the ability of exporter to predict customer requirements Production ﬂexibility. This reﬂects the abilities of the exporter to meet changing customer requirements Customer orientation. Involves visits by customers to check and advise on safety and quality practices throughout the production and export system Vertical integration. Reﬂects the involvement of exporters in upstream and /or downstream processes in the supply chain Vertical coordination. The degree of co-ordination of operations in the supply chain Table V. Traceability systems. The existence of documented traceability systems Dimension 1 KPIs
BIJ Areas analysed Key performance indicators18,3 Safety and quality orientation Quality certiﬁcation. The level of certiﬁcation obtained by the ﬁrm, of the export supply chain e.g. ISO, HACCP, etc. Quality control specialists. The availability of specialists with the required skills394 Training and knowledge. The availability of training for workers Social responsibility. The exporter’s policies with respect to worker health, safety and welfare Environmental management. The exporter environmental management policies and practicesTable VI. Safety and quality requirements. Safety and quality speciﬁcations asDimension 2 KPIs part of exporter-importer contracts or agreements Dimension 3 analyzes the export operational infrastructures under which Oman and Tunisian ﬁrms operate. Operational infrastructure for the purpose of this benchmarking exercise include: processing and packaging quality and technology used; labelling ﬂexibility in processing and packaging in response to customer needs; storage technology and storage capacity; and transport quality and technology. A good export operational infrastructure is very important for the success of the export business. Table VII presents a summary of KPIs that represents dimension 3. There are altogether seven KPIs for dimension 3. Dimension 4 tracks the efﬁciency of the export supply chain in Oman and Tunisia. For the purpose of this benchmarking exercise, the efﬁciency of the export supply chain is measured by four KPIs which include: proﬁt per ton (PPT) exported; proﬁt per employee ratio; cost per ton exported and export intensity. Table VIII presents a summary of the four KPIs that represents dimension 4. 4.2 Questionnaire design and data collection To implement the benchmarking methodological framework presented in Tables V-VIII, a questionnaire was developed to collect the required data and other relevant information. Areas analysed Key performance indicators Export operational Processing and packaging technology. The technology used in processing infrastructure and packaging operations Processing and packaging quality. The quality of processing and packaging materials used and the extent of operational ﬂexibility available to meet customer requirements Labelling ﬂexibility in processing and packaging. Flexibility in meeting customer labelling requirements Storage technology. The level of technology or automation the ﬁrm uses in its storage facilities Storage capacity. The ﬁrm’s storage capacity Storage quality. The ﬁrm’s storage quality Transport technology. The level of technology or automation employed by the ﬁrmTable VII. Transport quality. The availability of transport of required quality and theDimension 3 KPIs extent to which problems are encountered en route to the customer
Each KPI in the benchmarking methodological framework was used to formulate questions Dates exportused as a discussion guide during ﬁrm visits and interviews with dates exporters. The supply chainquestionnaire was pre-tested for consistency and validity. Data were collected from sevenTunisian and three Omani dates exporters during June-July 2007. Table IX presentsinformation on dates exporters in Oman and Tunisia where data were collected. The complexity and difﬁculties in benchmarking performance dimensions tends tobe in assigning quantitative measures to the selected indicators. For dimensions 1-3, 395a qualitative approach is used to compute each KPI as in other studies as follows(Garcia et al., 2004; Food and Drink National Training Organisation, 2001): . Level 1. Firm shows little or no capacity in achieving “best practice”. . Level 2. Firm shows some capacity in achieving “best practice”. . Level 3. Firm shows “best practice” in this area (e.g. consistent performance, clear and demonstrable systems in place).This method allows the identiﬁcation of areas in which ﬁrms have room forimprovement (Gilmour, 1999). For dimension 4, descriptive statistics were computedto measure the efﬁciency and the performance of the export supply chain.5. Results and discussionResults from the benchmarking exercise are presented below. For clear presentation andcomparison of results, the spider web or radar charts have been used (Mosley and Mayer,1999). A spider web diagram shows at a glance multiple targets and gaps, and as a result,capture tradeoffs that occur between goals and their achievements (Ahmed and Raﬁq,1998). As indicated earlier, in this study, Tunisian exporters are taken as “best practice”.These are the practices which have often been assigned a “level 3” in the benchmarkinganalysis.Areas analysed Key performance indicatorsEfﬁciency of the export PPT exported. Measured in US dollars, this is the amount of proﬁt generatedsupply chain per unit volume of business Proﬁts per employee ratio. The amount of proﬁt in US dollars generated per employee Cost per ton exported ðin US$Þ ¼ Cost of Export=Export Volume Table VIII. Export intensity ¼ Export revenue=Total revenue for the entire output Dimension 4 KPIsNo. Company name (Tunisian companies) No. Company name (Oman companies)1 Vacpa (in Beni Khalled – Tunis) 1 Ibn Nasser Al-Siyabi Trading2 Horchani (in Tozeur – Tunis) 2 United Dates Factory Company3 Cap Bon Frigoriﬁque 3 Oman Dates International4 Sages in Tunis5 Jasmine Export Table IX.6 Profruits Dates processing7 Medi fruits companies in Tunisia8 Les Agrumes Du Golse Flus and Oman
BIJ 5.1 Qualitative dimensions18,3 5.1.1 Dimension 1: coordination of the export SCM practices. 188.8.131.52 Exporter-producer information sharing. Exporter-producer information sharing is a key to the success of the export supply chain. This is because, it is through information-sharing process that feedbacks from consumers in the export market reach producers in exporting country. Through this process, consumer needs and396 wants can very be incorporated in the production process at farm level in the producing country. In many cases, exporters are less likely to have systems in place for providing producers with information related to market intelligence, crop protection regulation, quality standards, etc. With regard to exporter-producer information sharing, Oman score is 51.8 percent or 1.55 in the KPI scale of 1-3 indicating a weak exporter-producer relationship, compared to Tunisia’s score of 68.2 percent or 2.05 (Figure 1). This is largely due to the lack of information sharing system in Oman. In Tunisia, some degree of vertical integration and contacts with government agencies facilitates communication greatly. 184.108.40.206 Exporter-importer information sharing. In addition to exporter-producer information sharing, information sharing between exporters and importers is very important. Exporters need to know the importing countries requirements and speciﬁcations. Importers also need to know safety and quality standards in the exporting countries. Therefore, strong information sharing between exporters and importers leads to high performance in the production and delivery of the products to importers and ultimately to the consumers. With regard to exporter-importer information sharing, Oman’s score is 66.6 percent or 2.00 in KPI scale indicating a relatively weak relationship, compared to Tunisia’s score of 85.7 percent or 2.57 in KPI scale (Figure 1). This is due to lack of a strong exporter organization in Oman and lack of a strong link with importers. In Tunisia, such organizational relationships exist and are strong. 220.127.116.11 Market orientation. Market orientation is another area of export supply chain coordination in which partners in different regions can share market intelligence. Market orientation plays a role in choosing the varieties to be grown, and this can change every year depending on market requirements and the type of agricultural commodity whether it is an annual crop. For a perennial crop, such as date palm changes take time. Exporters can develop their own information network through visiting trade fairs, getting advice from international organizations and following market trends. Exporter-producer information sharing 3 Exporter-importer Traceability 2 information sharing 1 Vertical coordination 0 Market orientationFigure 1. Vertical integration Production flexibilityBenchmarking results onthe coordination of the Oman Customer orientationexport SCM practices Tunisia
Omani dates export sector presents a medium degree of market orientation with a score Dates exportof 77.8 percent or 2.33, as shown in the spider chart (Figure 1). The Omani exporters supply chainmonitor demand trends in the international markets. They target mostly the developingcountries in Asia where ﬁrms are generally not very well organized in terms of marketresearch and they have inefﬁcient promotion programs. All Omani ﬁrms supply threevarieties of dates which are Faradh, Khalas and Khasab. Most of the exports are ofFaradh variety which is in high demand in the traditional low-value Asian markets due 397to its intact and non-sticky skins. On the other hand, Tunisian dates export sector with a score of (100 percent or 3,Figure 1) presents a high degree of market orientation. Tunisia monitors very closelydemand trends in the European market and other international markets and ﬁrmsseem to be generally very well organized. Firms have good relationships with otherﬁrms and organizations in the international markets, enabling them to work togetherefﬁciently. In this arrangement, information regarding domestic and export marketsrequirements ﬂows efﬁciently along the export supply chain. This may be one of thereasons why Tunisian export ﬁrms have managed to compete successfully for a largershare of the EU market. 18.104.22.168 Production ﬂexibility. Production ﬂexibility can be deﬁned as the ability ofthe exporter to meet changing customer requirements. Production ﬂexibility can beenhanced by the existence of strong communication infrastructure capable of reachingand communicating with importers easily and efﬁciently. Omani ﬁrms score is67 percent or 2.01 implying a limited ﬂexibility in terms of changing varieties suppliedand responding to customer demands. On the other hand, Tunisian ﬁrms score is85.7 percent or 2.57 implying that Tunisian ﬁrms tend to be more proactively involvedin changing their production processes to meet customer requirements. This is due tobetter communication infrastructure that constantly monitors and forecast consumertrends. 22.214.171.124 Customer orientation. Customer orientation can be measured by the numberof visits from customers to audit, check and advice on safety, quality practices and allmatters of interest throughout the production and export supply chain. Customerorientation is important as one of the coordination practices in the export supply chain.For both Oman and Tunisia, visits to exporters by customers take place regularlyevery season. However, their regularity and frequency depends on the customers.Results from survey data show that customers have fewer direct involvement in Oman(score 56 percent or 1.68) compared to Tunisia (score 90.5 percent or 2.72). 126.96.36.199 Vertical integration. Vertical integration is the involvement of exporters inupstream or downstream processes in the export supply chain. In vertical integration,the exporter may be vertically integrated from production to exportationand sometimes large and modern producers are directly involved in exportation.Tunisia’s score is 76.1 percent or 2.28 which imply a high degree of vertical integrationin terms of production, processing and export. Oman’s score is 67 percent or 2.01 whichimply a less direct involvement of exporters in production. 188.8.131.52 Vertical coordination. Vertical coordination includes operations such asharvesting, processing, packing, storage and transportation organized and coordinatedin order to control product quality along the export supply chain. With regard tovertical coordination, Oman score is 78 percent or 2.01 which implies that generallythere is some coordination of operations (harvesting, processing and export) but with
BIJ no modern control systems, such as IT tracking systems. Tunisia score is 90.5 percent18,3 or 2.72 implying that operations are generally highly coordinated in large and modern packinghouses equipped with IT tracking systems. This enables the system to monitor time closely and, as a result, making it possible to minimize time in storage and transportation. 184.108.40.206 Traceability systems. Product-tracing systems are essential for food safety and398 quality control. Most of the foreign markets especially in North America and Europe require traceability system. Traceability systems help ﬁrms to solve safety and quality problems quickly with minimal disruption by tracing back the origin of the products. A well-functioning traceability system uniquely codes each item or product to identify time of production, line of production, place of production and sequence. With such speciﬁc information, the processor can trace faulty products to the minute of production and determine whether other products from the same batch are also defective. With regard to traceability systems, Tunisia score is 92.1 percent or 2.76 which imply that generally there is a high level of traceability. Any packing box sold in the European market carries codes and references that allows tracing of the product to the packinghouse, so the treatment undergone by the product at the packinghouse can be veriﬁed easily. Oman score is 66.6 percent or 2.00 which implies that many dates exporters have no traceability system in place. This will likely make it difﬁcult for Oman to penetrate the lucrative EU and North American markets that require traceability systems. A summary of the eight KPIs (220.127.116.11-18.104.22.168) is shown in the radar chart (Figure 1). Figure 1 is a spider web that presents a visual graphical summary of the eight KPIs of dimension 1. Tunisia is performing better than Oman in all eight KPIs. At the range of 1-3, Tunisia scores between 2 and 3 for all indicators. On the other hand, Oman’s performance is not all that impressive. Its scores range from 1 to 2, achieving a score of above 2 in one indicator, namely market orientation. 5.1.2 Dimension 2: safety and quality orientation of the export supply chain. 22.214.171.124 Quality certiﬁcation. As industries are widening their range of products, certiﬁcation to national and international requirements has become necessary and crucial in winning consumer conﬁdence. Varying levels of certiﬁcation are seen in each country. Omani ﬁrms score reached 55.5 percent or 1.66 where some of them have ISO certiﬁcates and the majority are without certiﬁcates. On the other hand, Tunisian ﬁrms score reached 61.9 percent or 1.86, where some of them have several types of certiﬁcates (ISO 9001, ISO 22000, HACCP, BRC, IFS, ISO 14000), but just like in Oman, the majority are without certiﬁcates. 126.96.36.199 Quality control specialists. Quality control specialists are the employees who devise ways to guarantee the quality of products. They study products at various stages of development to make sure that they are safe, will satisfy customers and meet the company’s and regulators’ standards. With regard to quality control specialists, they are a norm in Tunisia with score reaching 100 percent or 3.00 and less common in Oman with score reaching 77.8 percent or 2.33. 188.8.131.52 Training and knowledge. Training is important because organizations need to upgrade the knowledge and skills of their professionals. In most cases, training is focused on achieving business goals leading to high-quality products and services. For this particular KPI, Oman score is 77.8 percent or 2.33 compared to Tunisia score of 81.9 percent or 2.46. Implying that there is no signiﬁcant difference between the two countries in as far as training and knowledge is concerned.
184.108.40.206 Social responsibility. It is the obligation of the management of the ﬁrm. Social Dates exportresponsibility involves making decisions and taking actions that will enhance the supply chainwelfare and interests of employees. This is important in increasing employeeproductivity. With regard to social responsibility, Omani ﬁrms score is 92.1 percent or2.76 where workers are generally insured (social insurance) and labour regulations aregenerally adhered to, with access to medical care and provisions for the workers welfare(e.g. workers age, working hours, working conditions, legal and health requirements, 399salary and number of days for vacation). Tunisian ﬁrms score is 95.91 percent or 2.88,where approximately all the non-seasonal workers are insured and labour regulationsare adhered to, with access to medical care and provision for the workers welfare. 220.127.116.11 Environmental management. Lately, corporations have been confronted witha number of global environmental challenges such as global warming, acid rain,depletion of natural resources, waste management, green consumerism and pollutionprevention. Nowadays, there is a growing pressure for corporations to deliver productsand services which are GREEN or environmentally friendly. Various environmentalmanagement practices (e.g. implementing aggressive pollution-prevention programs;initiating environment-related performance measures; and developing green productsand process technologies) provide opportunities for ﬁrms to strengthen theirdistinctive competence. With regard to environmental management, the score forOmani ﬁrms is 33.3 percent or 1 implying that generally there are no demonstrableenvironmental management policies or practices in many of the Omani ﬁrms.On the other hand, Tunisian ﬁrms score is 47.6 percent or 1.43 implying that there isgenerally very little veriﬁable efforts in place focused towards environmentalmanagement. 18.104.22.168 Safety and quality requirements. The competitiveness of food companies atnational and international markets depends upon their ability to adopt productionprocesses which meet food safety and quality requirements. Food safety and qualityassurance affect the cost of carrying out business transactions, and implicit therein is theprivate incentive for adopting voluntary quality assurance systems. Quality assurancesystems have the potential to reduce transaction costs by serving as the seller’sguarantee of safety or quality (Holleran et al., 1999). With regard to safety and qualityrequirements, Tunisian score is 80.7 percent or 2.42. In Tunisia, the safety and qualityspeciﬁcations are always put in the contract with the customers. In addition, because ofTunisian Government assistance in improving dates quality control systems, the safetyand quality requirements are always met by the exporters. Omani score is 59.21 percentor 1.78 where exporters place more emphasis on personal contacts and goodrelationships with customers than on formal contracts. Moreover, because of lowgovernment assistance, dates quality control systems in Oman are not efﬁcientsometimes hampering exporter’s ability to meet foreign customer speciﬁcations. Figure 2 is a spider web (radar chart) that presents a visual graphical summary of thesix key qualitative performance indicators of dimension 2. As indicated, Tunisia isperforming better than Oman in all the six key qualitative performance indicators. At therange of 1-3, Tunisia scores between 2 and 3 for all indicators except for two, namely,quality certiﬁcation and environmental management. Moreover, Tunisia scores 3 or100 percent in quality control specialist indicator implying that Tunisia takes the issueof quality control very seriously by employing enough qualiﬁed quality controlspecialists.
BIJ Quality certification 318,3 2 Quality control Safety and quality requirements specialist 1400 0 Environmental Training and management knowledgeFigure 2.Result on the safety and Oman Social responsibilityquality orientation of the Tunisiaexport supply chain Note: A summary of dimension 2 On the other hand, Oman’s performance is not all that impressive – for three indicators, Oman scores range from 1 to 2. For quality control specialist, training and knowledge, and social responsibility indicators, Oman achieved scores above 2. 5.1.3 Dimension 3: export operational infrastructure. 22.214.171.124 Processing and packing technology. Advances in packaging technology provide a potential for improved quality and extended shelf life of agricultural products. With regard to processing and packing technology, Oman is 77.73 percent or 2.33 and Tunisia 84.1 percent or 2.52. Both countries have some degree of automation in sorting and grading lines, varying in the age of equipments and states of the technology used. 126.96.36.199 Processing and packing quality. It depends on customer requirements and speciﬁcations. For instance, some customers require sterile foods with aseptic processing and packaging in a manner that leaves the food free of microorganisms. Such a requirement has public health signiﬁcance, because it helps to prevent the growth of any microorganism under normal non-refrigerated storage condition and distribution. Some of the foods we buy from grocery stores go through non-refrigerated storage conditions; as a result, processing and packing quality are of paramount importance. With respect to processing and packing quality, Tunisian ﬁrms score is 100 percent or 3.00 indicating there are high-quality processing and packing operations in virtually all ﬁrms – with packaging materials readily available. In Tunisia, packaging requirements are pre-agreed with customers. Omani ﬁrms score is 77.75 percent or 2.33 indicating some level of processing and packing quality. 188.8.131.52 Labelling ﬂexibility. Flexibility in dealing with customer labelling requirements varies across ﬁrms in the two countries. Some ﬁrms use excellent labelling systems which include bar coding whereas for others labelling is entirely manual. With regard to labelling ﬂexibility, Omani ﬁrms score is 72.2 percent or 2.17 where labelling is carried out by hand in a few of the Omani ﬁrms. However, as long as customer requirements can be met by this method, there are no problems. There are also many traceability labelling requirements which not all Omani ﬁrms are able to meet. Tunisian ﬁrms score is 90.46 percent or 2.71 indicating that excellent labelling systems are used which include bar coding and use of coded reference. As a result, ﬁrms have no problem meeting customer labelling requirements. In Tunisia, ﬁrms’ use of advanced IT systems in labelling facilitates labelling ﬂexibility.
184.108.40.206 Storage technology. High level of technology used in storage has to include Dates exporttemperature and humidity equipments control. With regard to storage technology, supply chainOman score is 77.75 percent or 2.33 and Tunisia score is 92.84 percent or 2.79 indicatingsome level of investment and use of storage technology in both countries. 220.127.116.11 Storage capacity. With regard to storage capacity, Omani ﬁrms scored100 percent or 3.00 implying that there is enough storage capacity available with asigniﬁcant refrigerated capacity ranging from 100 to 2,600 tons. On the other hand, the 401score for Tunisian ﬁrms reached 71.41 percent or 2.14. 18.104.22.168 Storage quality. The level of storage quality depends on the conditions ofcontrolled atmosphere stores. Storage quality score for Tunisia is 98 percent or 2.94which implies that all storage is under controlled atmosphere and pre-cooling takesplace before transport, even with the hired storage facilities. In Oman, the score is70 percent or 2.1. The small ﬁrms visited have few or no controlled atmosphere storagefacilities, as a result, products are subject to different storage qualities. The largestﬁrms, however, were found to have high-quality storage facilities. 22.214.171.124 Transport technology. The level of technology used in the transportation ofproducts for export has to include temperature and humidity control equipments inorder to control storage atmosphere either in the trucks or in the ships duringshipment. With regard to transport technology, Tunisia score is 92.84 percent or 2.79which implies that most of the dates exporters use cold transport with technology tocontrol temperature and humidity in both land and sea transport. On the other hand,Oman score is 61.05 percent or 1.83 which implies that most of the dates exporters usenon-cold transport, with low technology in both land and sea transportation. 126.96.36.199 Transport quality. The level of transport quality can be evaluated based onthe availability of refrigerated containers and problems encountered en route tocustomers. Sometimes, dates are stored for a long time before shipment (up to severalmonths). Owing to marketing conditions and packing possibilities, it is necessary tosample each consignment, in order to make sure that the quality of the fruit has notchanged. During loading, it is important to ensure that the surfaces or packaging arenot damaged. All the labels and markings must be checked to ensure compliance withthe laws of the importing country, as well as the customer requirements. Furthermore,since temperature and humidity are important factors in the preservation of the qualityof the dates, temperature and humidity control equipments with recorders must beplaced in the container or the truck. With regard to transport quality, Tunisia score is95 percent or 2.85. Tunisian ﬁrms use cold transport with technology to controltemperature and humidity. The cost of cold transport is high, but with governmentalsupport, the exporters are able to use cold transport in order to preserve dates fromdeterioration especially for the long distances between Tunisia and export destinationsin the EU. Oman score is 60 percent or 1.8. Oman ﬁrms use non-cold transport with lowtechnology to control temperature and humidity both in land and sea transport. Thecost of cold transport is high, and without governmental support, the exporters inOman are unable to use cold transport. Figure 3 is a spider web (radar chart) that presents a visual graphical summary ofthe eight KPIs of dimension 3. As indicated, Tunisia is performing better than Oman inall the seven KPIs. At the range of 1-3, Tunisia scores between 2 and 3 for all indicators.Tunisia scores 3 or 100 percent in processing and packing quality indicating theexistence of high-quality processing and packing operations for all ﬁrms in Tunisia.
BIJ Processing and packing technology18,3 3 Processing and Transport quality 2 packing quality 1402 Transport technology 0 Labelling flexibility Storage quality Storage technologyFigure 3. Oman Storage capacityExport operational Tunisiainfrastructure Note: Summary of dimension 3 Omani ﬁrms are performing better than Tunisian ﬁrms in one of the indicators, namely storage capacity, because in Oman there is excess refrigerated storage capacity. This is because of the low-processed volumes handled by Omani ﬁrms compared to their initial planned capacity during establishment. At the range of 1-3, Oman scores 2-3 for most indicators except two, namely, transport technology and transport quality. 5.2 Quantitative dimensions 5.2.1 Dimension 4: efﬁciency of the export supply chain. 188.8.131.52 Proﬁt per ton. A ﬁrm adds to proﬁts if marginal revenue from selling an extra unit is greater than the marginal cost of production. Therefore, the PPT or per unit will be equal to average revenue (AR) minus average total cost (ATC). That is, the PPT ¼ AR 2 ATC. The ﬁrm with the highest PPT is therefore considered to be performing better than the other ﬁrms. The PPT or proﬁt per exported ton is used here as measure of export performance. With respect to this indicator, Tunisian ﬁrms achieved around US$418 per exported ton, whereas Omani ﬁrms achieved around US$102 per exported ton. This implies that Tunisian exporters earn around four times higher proﬁt per exported ton than Omani exporters. In other words, Tunisian operations are efﬁcient and more proﬁtable than Omani operations. It is important to note that the observed differences in proﬁtability between Oman and Tunisia, to some extent, may be attributable to differences in variety, quality, price of raw material at the farm level and pre- and post-harvest operations. 184.108.40.206 Proﬁt per employee. Recently, ﬁrms create wealth by converting “raw” intangibles into products, services, brands, intellectual capital and networks. The most valuable intangibles are employee skills, reputation and relationships. They represent competitive advantage in today’s business environment and are now the true source of corporate wealth. In this regard, one new metric of business performance is proﬁt per employee (Wolfe, 2007; Lowell, 2007). Proﬁt per employee or a contribution of each employee to the ﬁrm proﬁt is therefore a good proxy for earnings on intangibles and hence a good indicator to evaluate the performance of a ﬁrm. With regard to proﬁt per employee, Tunisian ﬁrms achieved around US$3,874 per employee, whereas Omani ﬁrms achieved around US$1,802 indicating that Tunisian are efﬁcient and generate more proﬁt per employee than Omani ﬁrms.
220.127.116.11 Export intensity. It is another ﬁnancial indicator of export performance. Dates exportIt is deﬁned as the proportion of export sale in total sale (Export Intensity ¼ supply chainValue of Export/Value of TP). With regard to this indicator, Tunisian ﬁrms score isaround 0.86 indicating that around 86 percent of their revenue comes from export earningsand hence much more export oriented. Oman score, on the other hand, is around 0.35implying that only 35 percent of Oman ﬁrms revenue come from export earnings. Theseexport intensity statistics clearly show that Tunisian ﬁrms are very successful in date 403export compared to Oman ﬁrms. Table X presents a summary of the three KPIs of dimension 4. As indicated, Tunisiais performing better than Oman in all three indicators. Results of this dimensioncomplements and enrich the results of the previous three dimensions.6. Conclusions and recommendations6.1 ConclusionThe purpose of this study is two fold. First, is to apply the benchmarking approachemployed by Garcia et al. (2004) to the DESC in Oman and Tunisia in order to identifygaps in the organizational and operational structures of the DESC in the two countries.Second, is to put forward recommendations to improve Omani DESC. The TunisianDSC was used as the “best practice” or “benchmark” since, in many ways, it is moreadvanced and efﬁcient than dates-producing countries. The benchmarking measureswere put into two groups, namely, qualitative and quantitative group. The qualitativegroup has three dimensions and the quantitative group has one dimension only. Eachof the four dimensions has a number of KPIs associated with it. It is these KPIs that areused to identify the gaps between Tunisia and Oman. The analysis required an audit of the export supply chains of both countries. Theaudit was executed by visiting the exporters in both countries to collect the requireddata by means of questionnaires. In total, ten date exporters were interviewed, three ofwhich were Omani and the remaining seven ﬁrms were Tunisian. Results from the benchmarking exercise were summarized in radar chart diagramsto visualize multiple targets and gaps. The results show that Tunisia is performingbetter than Oman in all the four dimensions. Evaluation and the implementationof the gaps highlighted in this study would help Omani ﬁrms to adapt and respond tosafety and quality standards demanded by international market customers. It isimportant to note that some of the practices that are feasible in Tunisia may not befeasible in Oman. This is simply because there could be large variations in resourceavailability, degree of modernization and market orientation of agri-food systemsbetween Oman, Tunisia and importing countries. A careful analysis of the ﬁndingsshould enable Oman policy makers and stakeholders to produce an industry actionplan to correct the gaps and take the lead.Key performance indicators Tunisian exporters Omani exportersPPT exported (US$) 418 102Proﬁt per employee (US$) 3,874 1,802 Table X.Export intensity 0.857 0.353 Efﬁciency of the export supply chainNote: A summary of dimension 4 (efﬁciency of the export supply chain) (dimension 4)
BIJ 6.2 Recommendations18,3 6.2.1 Coordination of the export SCM practices. The level of coordination seen in Oman is signiﬁcantly lower than that in Tunisia where operations are highly coordinated in large and modern packinghouses. Hence, initiatives should be developed at ﬁrm level in Oman to increase the level of coordination among actors in the export supply chain. To increase the level of coordination in the DESC in Oman, there is a need to support and404 encourage horizontal and vertical integration, as well as information sharing between exporter and producers and exporter and importers. Because of the likely welfare impacts of DESC, the public sector needs to be involved through direct investment and through availability of credits/loans to the private sector to invest in the DESC. The Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of National Economy and the Ministry of Commerce and Industry could work together to coordinate this so that social objectives such as employment and income are taken into account. Key to greater coordination in the DESC is a traceability system. In future, it will be impossible to export to most of the foreign markets (in North America, Europe and Asia) without having a traceability system in place. As a result, Oman needs to start now working on establishing such a system especially for economically important commodities such as dates. However, the fragmented nature of the DESC makes it difﬁcult for Omani dates exporters to establish a traceability system. This is why the government leadership and involvement is needed to make sure that this done. 6.2.2 Dimension 2: safety and quality orientation of the export supply chain. In this dimension, Tunisia is performing better than Oman in all the six key qualitative performance indicators. It is therefore clear that there is a lot that needs to be done to bridge the gaps identiﬁed. This will require signiﬁcant investments on the part of the Omani Government, date exporters, as well as on the part of the stakeholders. These investments are of course costly and must be planned and executed carefully in a coordinated fashion in consultation with all the stakeholders. Because these investments are costly, they should not be borne entirely by the government, instead all the stakeholders should take part. As a result, it is important to assign more responsibility for ensuring safety and quality along the supply chain to the food companies themselves. This can be achieved by requiring date exporters and processors to obtain HACCP, ISO and other certiﬁcations that are necessary to win international and local customer conﬁdence. Of course, obtaining these HACCP and ISO certiﬁcations and maintaining them, as articulated earlier herein, requires signiﬁcant investments both in human and physical capital; including quality control infrastructures and business information systems. 6.2.3 Dimension 3: export operational infrastructure. Here Tunisia is performing better than Oman in seven out of the eight KPIs. Omani ﬁrms are only performing better than Tunisian ﬁrms in one of the indicators, namely storage capacity. Export operational infrastructure which include eight items ranging from processing and packing technology, labelling technology to storage technology requires signiﬁcant long-term investments that cannot be made by the private sector alone. The lack of technical and ﬁnancial support in Oman very often makes the required investments in export operational infrastructure very difﬁcult. Therefore, it is recommended to implement joint public/private initiatives to develop actionable strategies aimed at improving export infrastructure following Tunisian experience. Firm-level infrastructure-related investment should be done through preferential ﬁnancing
arrangements as suggested earlier. Considerations must be given to innovative ways of Dates exportﬁnancing improvements, such as contributions in the cost of factory establishment and supply chainfactory upgrading (rehabilitation) similar to what is done by the Tunisian Government. 6.2.4 Dimension 4: efﬁciency of the export supply chain. Results from dimension 4show that the Tunisian DESC performance is more efﬁcient than Oman in all three KPIs.In fact, these results are consistent with the results of the previous three dimensions. Moreneed to be done to improve the efﬁciency of the DESC in Oman through training of 405employees and investment in technology. The following recommendations are important: . There are several date varieties in Oman most of which are of very low quality. At farm level, all these different varieties are mixed-up resulting in a substandard quality. To overcome this problem, the government needs to embark on long-term program to modernize and promote high-value varieties such as Medjool, Barhee Khalas, Abu Naringa, Barni, Madlouki and Faradh. . There is a need for investment in research and development to identify and develop alternatives uses for dates such as: baby food ingredients, sugar production out of dates, baking ingredients, ice cream, coffee, sweets, confectionery, chocolates, preservatives, salads, sauces, breakfast cereals and soft drinks.ReferencesAhmed, P.K. and Raﬁq, M. (1998), “Integrated benchmarking: a holistic examination of select techniques for benchmarking analysis”, Benchmarking for Quality Management & Technology, Vol. 5 No. 3, pp. 225-42.Allan, S. (1997), “Partners benchmarking”, available at: www.benchmarking.co.uk/bmark. htm#partnersAndersen, B., Fagerhaug, T., Randmoel, S., Schuldmaier, J. and Prenninger, J. (1999), “Benchmarking supply chain management: ﬁnding best practice”, Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, Vol. 14 Nos 5/6, pp. 378-89.Anon. (2005), “Welfare benchmarking and herd health plans on organic dairy farms (OF0343)”, available at: http://orgprints.org/10776/ (unpublished).Balm, G.J. (1996), “Benchmarking and gap analysis: what is the next milestone?”, Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 3 No. 4, pp. 22-33.Barnes, C. (2007), “Study exposes weak links in grain chain”, Food Manufacture, 27 March, available at: www.foodmanufacture.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/4483/Study_exposes_ weak_links_in_grain_chain.htmlBhutta, K.S. and Huq, F. (1999), “Benchmarking best practices: an integrated approach”, Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 6 No. 3, pp. 254-68.Brandt, J.R. and Taninecz, G. (2004), “Benchmarking: an executive primer to locating and leveraging manufacturing best practices”, available at: www.mpi-group.net/ thoughtleadership/ITC_MPI_Benchmarking.pdfCamp, R. (1989), The Search for Industry Best Practices that Lead to Superior Performance, Productivity Press, Portland, OR.CLAN (2006), “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions from Australian agriculture: the role of benchmarking in driving best management practice”, A discussion paper prepared by the Climate Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Agriculture Working Group, available at: www.greenhouse.gov.au/agriculture/publications/pubs/ benchmarking.pdf
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BIJ Ministry of Agriculture, Oman (n.d.), available at: www.maf.gov.om18,3 Oman Customs (2006), Foreign Trade Statistics. Shah, J. and Singh, N. (2001), “Benchmarking internal supply chain performance: development of a framework”, Journal of Supply Chain Management, Vol. 37, pp. 37-47. Tunisian Agency for the Promotion of Agricultural Investment (n.d.), available at: www.tunisie. com/APIA408 United Dates Factory (n.d.), Processing and handling of dates in Oman. Corresponding author Msaﬁri Mbaga can be contacted at: msaﬁri@squ.edu.om To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints