UAE tops region in fruit bearing palm trees

The UAE has pumped more than Dh10 billion into greening and forestation projects over the last 20 years. (SUPPLIED)

The UAE has the largest number of fruit-bearing palm date trees in the Arab World, estimated at more than 16 million trees, official data showed Monday.

The surge in the number of trees from less than 10 million 15 years ago was a result of a costly palming programme as part of an overall greening drive launched by late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.
 
Officials estimate the UAE has pumped in excess of Dh10 billion into greening and forestation projects over the past 20 years and the projects involved the fertile eastern region, western farmlands, Abu Dhabi city and other areas.
 
By the end of 2008, the UAE’s fruit-bearing date trees accounted for nearly a fifth of the total palm trees in the Arab world, showed the figures by the Khartoum-based Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD).
 
Saudi Arabia was second to Egypt in the region in date production and third to the UAE and Egypt in the number of fruitful palm trees.
 
Iraq has long dominated the world’s date map but its fruit-bearing palm trees are below half those in the UAE, said AOAD, an affiliate of the Arab League.
 
The report showed the UAE has around 16.34 million fruit-bearing palm trees while those in Saudi Arabia were estimated at 11.4 million.
 
Date production by the Kingdom was put at nearly 986,000 tonnes in 2008, the second largest in the region. The UAE produced around 757,000 tonnes.
 
Experts attributed the higher production in Saudi Arabia to the fact that the Kingdom has more date processing plants.
 
Iraq’s fruit-bearing palm trees are estimated at around 8.29 million while there are around 2.45 million trees in Oman.
 
“Iraq still has the largest number of palm trees in the world but many of the fruit-bearing trees and other plantations have been destroyed by persistent wars and conflicts over the past 30 years,” said an Abu Dhabi-based Iraqi economist.
 
Outside the Gulf, Egypt was the dominant palm date power, having around 12.1 million fruitful trees, producing nearly 1.32 million tonnes in 2008, the largest output in the Arab world, according to AOAD.
 
Algeria also emerged as a major date land, having nearly 11.9 million trees with a production of about 552,000 tonnes in 2008.
 
The figures showed Yemen has the fifth largest number of fruit-bearing palm trees, which were put at about 4.6 million. But the country’s date production is a fraction of its tree potential, standing at only 55,000 tonnes per year.
 
Morocco has the sixth largest number of fruitful date trees of around 4.39 million but its production is also relatively small, standing at nearly 72,000 tonnes. It was followed by Tunisia with around 3.3 million trees and output of 120,000 tonnes, and Libya, which has around 2.1 million fruit-bearing trees.
 
The report showed countries with relatively low number of palm trees are Kuwait and Qatar, with around 312,000 and 335,000 trees respectively. Non-Gulf Syria has about 85,000 trees while Mauritanian has nearly 600,000 trees.
 
Occupied Palestine has nearly 301,000 date trees despite massive devastation of plantation and construction carried out by Israel for nearly half a century.
 
The report estimated total fruit-bearing date trees in the Arab region at around 77 million, with a combined production of nearly 5.2 million tonnes in 2008.
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