x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Better care of date palms bears fruit for farmers

Winners of the Khalifa International Date Palm Awards announced

ABU DHABI // More farmers are taking greater care of their date palms and it is bearing fruit, experts say.

"The care farmers are dedicating to their date palm trees and the industry in general is improving on a yearly basis," said Professor Abdelouahhab Zaid, the secretary general of the Khalifa International Date Palm Awards.

"And you can notice it in the quality of the products in the UAE and abroad."

Prof Zaid was speaking at a conference to announce the winners of the fourth date awards at Abu Dhabi's Emirates Palace.

He said it was the UAE's duty to inform people about date production and encourage scientists to further advance research.

"These awards are giving that push," Prof Zaid said.

There was a 30 per cent increase in entries from Arab countries over last year and four out of nine awards were won by Emiratis.

An Egyptian competitor, Dieffal Abdelhamid, was honoured for developing a system for automatic date sorting, while a team of Emiratis were awarded for their model farms. They were among five groups named as winners of the awards.

The UAE has more than 40 million palm trees, accounting for 6 per cent of the world's dates and making it the seventh-largest producer.

Last year, a team of Saudi scientists was recognised for its work in unfolding the genetic code of the date palm. Egyptian engineers were also awarded for developing a machine to detect palm weevils.

This year there was a marked increase in the number of Emirati date growers taking part.

"About 68 per cent of participants are from the UAE, which is a great achievement," said Prof Zaid.

There were 200 participants this year, five times more than the number who took part in the first awards in 2009.

"This is also due to increased activity on our part," Prof Zaid said.

The organising committee promoted the awards to farmers this year through presentations in Liwa and Al Ain, in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority and the Farmers' Services Centre.

"We had more activities this year, with the publishing of the first scientific book on dates in English," said Dr Helal Al Kaabi, a member of the award board of trustees.

"The book was written by British researcher Sandra Biesik and it documents its use in building heritage houses in the pre-oil stage."

The awards ceremony will take place at the Emirates Palace on March 11. First place will receive Dh300,000, while second place will win Dh200,000.

cmalek@thenational.ae