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                               Weathering vagaries of nature


Dubai Palm tree farming has become one of the most important growth industries in the UAE and the Middle East. Seventy percent of palm trees in the world are grown in this region, according to the World Food Organisation.
Dates continue to be one of the country's staple diets.
Palm trees existed in this part of the world since time immemorial,
providing food and shelter to a
population in harsh environment.
Dates are grown in more than 40 countries. The Arab world has 100 million palm trees, 70 million of which is in Iraq, UAE Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Bahrain, Oman, Libya, Tunisia,
Morocco and Algeria. Annual world production of dates is around 4.5 million tones, of this, the Arab world produces 3.15 million, making Dh4.8 billion.
Today, the UAE has become one of the main producers and exporters of dates in the world in a short period of time, thanks to the active encouragement of President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. As stated in the forward to the book Feast of Dates, he calls the palm the "tree-of-life."

Looking back
In 1840, Captain Hamerton, as reported in 'Feast of Dates', visited the Al AinBuraimi area and said the dates grown there are much superior to any produced in the then province of Oman. S.B.Miles, another visitor to the area 35 years, later, seconded this view.
Another traveler to Abu Dhabi in 1901 saw the date gardens in Sharjah as representing "a sign of progress of civilization". In 1905, Sir Percy Cox spoke of the date gardens that existed and estimated the number of date palms in the Al AinBuraimi area at 60,000 tress.
Palm trees were a part of the environment that existed then, and have grown continually in the modern era of the country's development. The fact that the palm trees continued to grow in the '70s and '80s - 1.861 million in 1983, and a massive growth to 40.7 million trees in 2000 - suggest the palm tree had long become part of the area's environment and culture.
Date farming has become a major growth Industry competing on an international level. In 1961, the date production was 6,000 tonnes, whereas it rose to 8,000 tonnes in 1971 when the UAE was established as a federation. It was only in the '80s and '90s, production continued to grow from strength to strength.
In 2001, it rose to 318,000 tonnes, making the UAE home to 20 per cent of the world production, the 6th producer in the world. The UAE is also the largest exports of dates with 37 per cent of the world exports to about 20 countries. Exports have grown from zero in 1970 to over 50,000 tonnes in 1998.
Through the use of tissue culture and scientific methods that are scientific methods that are constantly developed by scientists in the UAE, it is reckoned that 100,000 different palm trees atre added every year. New technology is constantly being used to improved the old crop. Palm tees usually produce between 25kg and 41kg dates every four years; scientists argue these figure can go as much as 190kg if the crop is given special attention.

Tissue culture
And this is what the UAE government has been doing as is evident by the setting up of the International Palm Date Research Programme in cooperation with the UNDP. Dr. Zyed Abdel Wahab, chief technical advisor of the programme, says through the use of advanced tissue culture techniques, seeding quality can be improved and hence productivity increased. Presently, there is 1,594,295 dunums for palm trees, which are grown all over the UAE. In 1981, the figure was 62,000 dunums, 76 per cent to 86 per cent cultivated with palm trees. At 22 million palm trees, Abu Dhabi has the highest production of dates among all the emirates.
Opinion on the different types of palm trees existing in the country varies. Some say there are 73 different types of dates in the country, while others say the figure is much higher at 120.
However, depending on demand, and encouraged by the government, only around 37 types are produced all over UAE, including Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Ajman.
These emirates have traditionally grown palm trees.
All these suggest that the UAE has another vital and viable industry that is set to grow further in the future while preserving the heritage of the past.


Tracing history
Staff Report

Tracing history Staff Report Dubai The history of the palm tree goes back to 4000 BC.
Dates are healthy to eat and have much nutritional value. Dates contain glucose and small quantities of fat. It restricts bacteria, and provides instant energy.
One kilogram of dates provide 3,000 calories and every 100gm dates contain three grams of fibre. Dates contain vitamins A, B, and D.



Variety is the spice

>>The UAE offers some of the best dates available in the world, which include : Naghal, Jash, Mussali, Ayn Al Baqr, Bumaan, Kneisi, Jash, Maaneh, Mushtada, Fard Ahmar, Fardh Abyadh, Razeez, Sabouh Al Arous, Reihabi, Dabass, Khassab Al Rayees, Al Qataarah, Khalass, Jabri and much more.

A record

>>Dates are grown in more than 40 countries. Seventy per cent of palm trees in the world are grown in the Arab region.

>> Annual world production of dates is around 4.5 million tonnes, of which the Arab world produces 3.15million, earning Dh 4.8 billion.

>> In 1983, there were 1.861 million palm trees in the UAE, This figure increased to 40.7 million in 2000.

>>Dates production in the UAE rose from 60,000 tonnes to 318,000 tonnes in 2001. It is said there are between 73 to 120 types of dates in the UAE.

By Dr. Marwan Asmar
Gulf News Research Center
December 25, 2003