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New lease of life for date palms boosts revenue

Researchers in Oman make a case for extensive replanting

Gulf News

Muscat: Replanting old date palms could increase farm incomes in Oman, researchers at the Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) say.

“Our research shows that Oman’s revenue from date palm could increase by 7 million Omani riyals [Dh65.90 million] through replanting of old date palms,” Dr Hemesiri Kotagama at the SQU’s Department of Natural Resource Economics, said in a press release on Tuesday.

The study, conducted by researchers in the Department of Natural Resources Economics at the College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences at the SQU also arrived at the optimal replanting schedule for date palm for Oman, given the current age distribution of palms across the country.

Amani Al Alawi, with guidance from Dr Kotagama, undertook the study to estimate the optimal age to replant date palms in Oman.

“Oman could increase the revenue from the date palm sector by about 13 per cent,” Dr Kotagama said, adding that, in 2011, the revenue from date palms in Oman was put at 52.7 million riyals by adopting the derived replanting schedule.

“The government could provide guidance and appropriate incentives for farmers to adopt date palm replanting,” he suggested.

“The methodology and the models developed in this study could be useful tools for planning such a programme at a national and farm level,” he added.

Dr Kodagama said that, for Oman, the date palm was the most significant crop, culturally and socio-economically but the area under date palm farming, besides productivity and production of the crop had stagnated since 2000.

“It is estimated that nearly 37 per cent of the date palms in Oman are more than 50 years old,” he said.

The government has implemented a programme to rejuvenate the sector by planting one million date palms.

Dr Kodagama said that planting of new date palms could require additional land, water and other resources. “Or, they could be replanted substituting aged and unproductive palms without additional commitment of land, water and other resources. Replanting of perennial crops is an agronomic practice that maximises and sustains long-term benefits and could improve the livelihood of farmers,” he stressed.

He agreed that although the optimal age of replanting of several perennial crops (rubber, coconut, oil palm, orchards) have been scientifically estimated, the optimal age to replant date palm has not yet been scientifically examined.

Dr Kotagama further said that two alternative analytical models were used to estimate the optimal age of replanting of date palms, namely: Comparison of Equivalent Annual Net Revenue (CEAN) and Multi-Period Dynamic Linear Programming Model (MPDLP).

The study estimated the optimal age of replanting date palms as 50-55 years. Both models, CEAN and MPDLP gave consistent estimates. The optimal age to replant date palm was sensitive only to changes in the interest rates. Low interest rates shortened the optimal age of date palm replanting. Changes in price yield and cost did not change the optimal age of replanting of date palm.

The study was funded by an internal research grant provided by the Sultan Qaboos University, with Dr Kotagama as the principal investigator and Dr Slim Zekri as co-principal investigator and Dr Hemantha Jayasuriya as co-investigator.