Abu Dhabi: The UAE has been officially recognised as the leading cultivator of date palms in the world with 42 million trees, it was announced on Sunday.

"The UAE has the largest number of date palm trees among the countries of the world with 42 million trees," Jenny Karampoiki, records manager of the Guinness World Records, said at a presentation ceremony held at the Emirates Palace Hotel to honour the winners of the inaugural Khalifa International Date Palm Awards.

Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mub-arak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, received the Guinness certificate, which reads: "The world record for the most palm trees planted in 10 years is 42 million and was achieved by the UAE."

The Dh2 million award attracted 39 entries from 18 countries - two-thirds of them from Arab countries.

The competition was envisioned by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to reward and encourage achievement in the date industry worldwide.

Shaikh Nahyan, who is also president of board of trustees of the award, stressed the government's commitment to sustaining agricultural production under the guidance of Shaikh Khalifa to achieve food security and to ensure sustainable development.

Shaikh Nahyan said the initiative to grow more date palms was part of a comprehensive development plan to boost the nation's agriculture.

Shaikh Khalifa, he said, had taken the initiative to augment areas under cultivation and with an emphasis on self-sufficiency and diversification of income.

"The UAE enjoys a very prestigious position at the regional and international levels due to the ... huge achievements ... to protect the natural resources and implement projects and ambitious plans for desert reclamation and planting of forests..." Shaikh Nahyan said.

Congratulating the winners of the awards, he said: "The award is a message from a national perspective but global in its outlook for the benefit and peace of all mankind."

Shaikh Nahyan said strategic plans to promote agricultural growth and date palms in particular had been pursued by the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan for more than half a century and Shaikh Khalifa had followed the example by doubling areas of date palm cultivation, fighting desertification, expanding the green cover and encouraging industries based on dates and other food produce.

He dedicated the international record to the late Shaikh Zayed and to Shaikh Khalifa and other Rulers, Crown Princes and Shaikhs for their efforts and wholehearted support for date cultivation with the ultimate objective of promoting sustainable development.

Khalifa International Date Palm Awards's reward is Dh2 million.

The award attracted 39 entries from 18 countries two thirds of them Arabs.

khalifa award: Three categories

The winners of the inaugural Khalifa International Date Palm Award are:

- Distinguished Research/Study First prize withheld Second prize claimed by The National Institute of Agronomic Research In Morocco, for its work on the Bayoud fungus.

- Distinguished Producers First prize claimed by Atul Ltd, from India, for its date palm development programme.

- Second prize claimed by The UAE's Emirates Bio-fertiliser Factory for its role in local and regional date palm culture development.

- Distinguished Figure Rakan Maktoum Al Qubaisi, secretary general of the UAE's National Consultative Council, honoured for his efforts to help organise the Muzayanat Rutab annual exhibition.

Contributions sought for magazine

Shaikh Nahyan also called on scientists and others involved with date palm cultivation to contribute to the special publication, The Blessed Tree.

Professor Norman Looney, CEO of the International Organisation of Horticulture Sciences Canada and chairman of the Award scientific committee, said: "...We have to recall the efforts of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE and guardian of its agricultural renaissance, who planted millions of date palms all over the country and stressed on the importance of cultivation and agriculture to provide food security and stability of the society."