Push for Qatari ‘brand’ of dates

 15 Aug 2014 - 2:10

Officials touring the first dates festival at Ezdan Mall. The expo runs until August 16.

DOHA: Qatar is set to develop ‘its own brand of dates’.
The Agriculture and Research Department at the Ministry of Environment has embarked on action plans to enhance the production of dates and boost the quality of garden fresh and dry dates.
As a precursor to the ambitious plans to develop the ‘Qatar brand’ of dates, the ministry, for the first time, launched a “festival of fresh and dry dates” yesterday. The festival at Ezdan Mall runs until August 16 and will be an annual event. 
The date harvest season has just begun and 20 varieties of local dates are on display at the festival, which attracted a large number of visitors on the first day.
“As of now, local production is covering just 70 percent of total demand. The ministry has plans to make the country self-sufficient by boosting production. 
“We have lined up a series of projects to increase the quality and quantity of local production,” said Yousef Al Khulaifi, Director, Agricultural Affairs, at the ministry.
As part of promoting the date palm sector, the ministry has planned to launch an awareness campaign to highlight the nutritional values of dates and the need to include the fruit in the daily menu of people. 
“Our campaign will focus on the need for families bringing traditional and natural food back to their dining tables. It is important in this age of people running after junk foods and risking their health. The date’s nutritional and medicinal values would be highlighted during the campaign,” said Massoud Jarallah Al Marri, Head of the  department.
He said the campaign to promote natural food would be the nucleus of future annual ‘dates festival’. 
The next editions of the festivals will showcase how the new technologies can boost the production of dates.
 Qatar Foundation has launched a QR15m date palm research to improve the genetic traits of local verities of dates. The ministry will announce more funds during the next festival to boost production.
The Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar and the Biotechnology Centre at the  Ministry of Environment are working to develop Qatar as an emerging leader in date palm horticulture and biotechnology applications. 
The strategic plan is to stimulate research for advanced technology and knowledge transfer, sustainable and improved date production systems, productive date varieties and to investigate health benefits of date-enriched food diets.
In 2010, Qatar had an estimated 144,000 date producing palm trees spread across 335,000 hectares.