ABU DHABI // The Khalifa International Date Palm Tree Award competition is trying to encourage more entrants and increase the prestige of the event by doubling the money available for prizes and related expenses and adding two categories.
The move will boost the Emirates' reputation as a date-producing powerhouse, organisers say, noting that the original total of Dh2.2 million (US$600,000) was less than that of similar competitions. The new budget of Dh4.4m will add prestige and increase the number of competitors, they say. "Really, our reason for increasing the award is simple," said Prof Abdelouahhab Zaid, the secretary general of the event. "We want to give our award the honour and prestige it deserves. Those who apply for the Khalifa International Date Palm Award are doing it not for the money, but for the name and honour."
Organisers hope to see the number of applicants double or even triple from the 39 nominations last year from 18 of the world's 26 date-producing countries. More than two-thirds of the submissions came from Arab countries. Today marks the start of a four-month application period for international participants and institutes of date palm culture. Submissions can include papers, studies, technology or project scopes.
Two new categories - best technology in date production and best developmental project in the date palm industry - will be added to the previous three of best research or study, most distinguished producer of dates and most distinguished figure in the date-production industry. Four categories of the award will have a first- and second-place winner, receiving Dh300,000 and Dh200,000 respectively, compared with last year's winnings of Dh200,000 and Dh150,000.
The sole winner of the most distinguished figure category will receive Dh300,000. In total, Dh2.3m will be distributed as prize money, and the remaining Dh2.1m will enable members of the judging committee to travel, if needed, to nominated date farms or institutes for research. "We will spend all of October screening the applications and discarding those that do not meet our requirements," Prof Zaid said.
"We will then spend two months on selecting the winning proposals." Dr Hasan Shabana, a member of the scientific committee that judges entrants, said the criteria differed from category to category, but innovativeness and use of modern technology were key. "Studies that have a direct impact on the farming and production of dates, or research papers that can cure or prevent the diseases that strike palm trees, are the sort of thing we are looking for," Dr Shabana said.
One important condition is that no applicant can submit a project that has won a prize in a different award scheme anywhere in the world. Dr Zaid said the awards - and their richer jackpot - would help cement the UAE's reputation in the date-production field. "Our leaders want to congratulate researchers in this industry, and really, this is an opportunity for the UAE to share what it is doing and show that it is a leader in date palm culture," Prof Zaid said.
"Our goal is to encourage scientists, researchers, farmers, technicians and so on to share knowledge and knowhow," he added. "We want to strengthen and develop the date industry all around the world, in terms of production, development, distribution - all aspects. We want these awards to be open to anybody interested in date palm culture, and not just those big names in the Arab world." Winners will be announced in the first week of February 2010, followed by an official awards ceremony at the Emirates Palace hotel by the end of that month.