ABU DHABI // UAE residents will soon be able to savour fresh dates in winter, thanks to a farm set up by an Abu Dhabi firm in Namibia.
Al Dahra Agricultural Company is embarking on projects across the world to help to meet the UAE's ever-growing demand for food.
It has invested Dh73.4 million in a 1,000-hectare farm in Namibia's southern region of Karas, which should soon be producing about 2,500 tonnes of dates a year.
"Emiratis love the fruit but during the winter they have no way of getting it," said Hatem El Sayed, the sales manager for Al Dahra.
The demand is so high that customers including Carrefour and Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society are already buying between 3 and 5 tonnes of their fruit in advance.
The company has so far shipped 25,000 small date palm trees from Al Ain to Namibia. Most have already been planted, with 5,000 left to go in the ground next February.
The UAE produced about 755,000 tonnes of dates in 2008, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation - 11 per cent of the world's date production.
But fresh dates are produced only in August, September and October. The Namibian farm will harvest in January, February and March.
"Our aim is to supply the dates in the same day to UAE consumers," said Mamoon Othman, the chief executive of Al Dahra. "Last January we got 50 tonnes and this year our objective is to double that."
The next batch is expected at the end of next month.
Within five years, the aim is for the Namibian farm to supply about 2,500 tonnes of dates a year to the Middle East. Al Dahra also has two date farms in Abu Dhabi.
It grows potatoes in Egypt and recently bought 15 sq km of land in Morocco on which it plans to grow olives for oil. Al Dahra also has a rice project in Pakistan expected to yield 100,000 tonnes this year.