Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan presenting distinguished figure award to Bel Hassan Mohammad of Morocco at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi yesterday. Dr Jacques Diouf, director general of FAO, is also seen. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: The Khalifa International Date Palm Award showcases the UAE's leading initiatives to achieve sustainable development in all areas, stressing the role of researchers and scientists in developing agricultural techniques and methods which preserve the environment, said Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, as he honoured winners of the award.

The UAE's particular attention to the development of agriculture, especially the date palm, has prompted increased investment in the agricultural sector and a greater use of modern technology, said a top UN agriculture official at the presentation ceremony held at the Emirates Palace hotel.

"The UAE accounts for 6 per cent of global date production and thus ranks seventh in the world. This sector is therefore one of the priorities in the plan prepared by the Government in the context of economic diversification," said Dr Jacques Diouf, director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Eight winners, representing various countries in the region, have been chosen out of 131 regional and international participants for the third edition of the award, which was established in 2008 by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to highlight the role of the date palm and the efforts being made in various fields in this regard.

Diouf said a programme of date palm research and development, coordinated by the UAE University together with the United Nations agencies, has produced a cutting-edge laboratory for tissue culture. "Thanks to this modernisation, the university provides support and advice to other date-producing countries," he said.

However, Diouf suggested there is a need to increase the supply of quality plant material for local and regional needs and to go beyond the current framework of date production by government plantations and a limited number of private farmers.

Impetus to propagation

The development of the date palm, with support from FAO, which has participated in the formulation of a trust fund country project, will give impetus to largescale in-vitro propagation. It will serve to further boost date palm production in the UAE, the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel. Diouf warned as was the case in 2008, international agricultural markets are again confronted today with higher food commodity prices which could undermine world food security. The winners were provided with certificates, trophies and prize money during the awards ceremony. The first and second prize winners received Dh300,000 and Dh200,000 respectively.

"The world population will increase from 6.9 billion today to 9.1 billion in 2050. Economic progress, notably in the emerging countries, puts more resources in the hands of the poor categories of the population who spend 50 per cent of their income on food. World food demand will surge as a result. This will require food production to increase by 70 per cent in the world and by 100 per cent in the developing countries," he said.

However, he said, investment is not keeping up. "The share of agriculture in official development assistance fell from 19 per cent in 1980 to 3 per cent in 2006.

Honour list

  • First Category: Distinguished Research/Studies
  • First place: Date Palm Genome project by Ebrahim S. Al Musallam, Saudi Arabia
  • Second place: Potential of Arbuscular Mycorrhizal technology for date palm, International Centre for Biosaline Agriculture, UAE
  • Second Category: Distinguished Producers
  • First place: A model Date Palm production farm, Abdullah Mohammad Arar, of Jordan
  • Second place: Tissue culture date plantation in Kuwait, Abdul Wahab Ali Naki Al Naki, from Kuwait.
  • Third Category: The Best New Technique
  • First place withheld
  • Second place: A new detection machine for the red palm weevil, engineering authority of the Defence Ministry, Egypt

— For full list visit www.gulfnews.com