UAE: Let’s Date with the Date

The one thing that represents the history, culture, heritage, religion, and agriculture of the United Arab Emirates is undoubtedly the dates. They have been an integral part of the existence of the country for near about 7000 years. In fact, it may not be incorrect to address UAE as the land of dates. This is because more than 70 per cent of the world’s dates are grown here. Various reports apparently stated that around 76,000 tons of dates are grown every year from about 44 million date palm trees in the country. These dates are grown by using various time and labour intensified processes under specific climatic conditions.

When it comes to climate, the UAE has two ecological zones; one is the coastal region having humid climatic conditions and the other one is the dryer region of the inlands. The dates are grown in the dryer region of the country as this region provides with the climate best suitable for the successful growth of the plant.

There are numerous ways to grow dates naturally. But in order to grow tens of thousands of dates on a regular basis, various sophisticated laboratory techniques are inculcated by farmers in the UAE. Tissue culture is one such technique which ensures the growth of necessary quantity of date plants and also helps in getting rid of various diseases that affect the plants. UAE is the hub of this business and has been using tissue culture from the late 1990s after the authorities offered tenders to companies for supplying plenty of tissue-cultured date palms.

Cloning of Female Date Palms

It is the female date palm plants that grow dates. Farmers do not waste their time in simply producing more and more plants only to find out that they are males. Hence, a process called cloning is carried out using the female plants. In this process, the female plants are cloned to generate offspring genetically identical to the parent plant. It typically involves cutting out small sections of the offshoots of the growing plants and then planting them separately in a nutrient rich medium before shifting them to the dark.

The UAE currently grows about 160 varieties of dates. Among these, Khalas, Barhi, Dabbas, Lulu, Fard, Khenaizi, Maktomi, Gaberi, and Sheesh are the most expensive ones. According to Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCD), shape, size, and taste of the dates determine their quality and price. Other factors affecting the price of dates include high demand, low availability, mechanisms used for post-harvest activities like drying and packaging and many more.

According to the latest figures, Dubai accounts 96 per cent of the UAE’s date exports, which make the Emirates one of the top exporters of dates. Morocco was the largest importer of dates from Dubai in 2016, with $11.7 million worth of dates. Followed by Morocco were Oman, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Syria, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Tanzania, Malaysia and other countries.

The UAE, accounting for 8.5 per cent of global date exports, is the world’s fourth largest exporter of dates. The prime importers of these dates are the Middle Eastern countries. Followed by them are the  European countries like France, UK, Germany, and Italy and North American countries like the US and Canada. Along with fresh and dried dates, other products like date syrup, date vinegar, date paste, and dates blended with chocolate and coffee are also imported by various countries.

Natural Sweetness through Dates

As dates are dried fruits, they are a rich source of energy which comes from the high calorie content of carbohydrates present in them. Dates also contain multiple vitamins and minerals in addition to fibre and antioxidants. Fibre helps in preventing constipation and also in regulating blood sugar levels. That is why people break their fast during Ramadan by eating dates. Also, due to its natural sweetness, dates are a healthy replacement of white sugar in many recipes. Minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium present in dates enhance bone health and can prevent bone-related conditions like osteoporosis. It also contains vitamins like A, B, and K, which makes it healthier.

In UAE, before the discovery of oil, the nomads relied on dates as a source of food. This continued for many years and was possible because dates have all the necessary minerals, vitamins, and energy for the survival of a human being. They used to live in huts made out of the barks of date palm trees. The bark was also used as firewood. The dried leaves of the date palm trees were used to create baskets, mats, and other objects. Interestingly, dates are also known as a cure for illnesses and a pain reliever.

Enlargement of Dates’ Business

It is assumed; rather found that dates are consumed by each and every person of the UAE. With the gradual increase in the awareness of significance of dates, they became popular throughout the globe. Hence, the fruit is in high demand. This is the prime reason behind the magnification of the date business in the country. With every passing moment, the demand for dates and other products made out of it is increasing, apparently giving a boost to its production market. Therefore, it can be said that the business of dates in UAE certainly has a bright future and has no reasons to slow down anytime.