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FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva speaking at the Khalifa Award ceremony.

19 March 2018, Abu Dhabi – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today reaffirmed its support to date palm production and development in the Near East region, including tackling the threat of Red Palm Weevil and improving the date palm value chain.

“More than ever, regional and international cooperation is needed to promote knowledge sharing, and to mobilize the necessary funding to support date palm development,” the FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said at the 10th Session of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation (KIADPAI) and the 6th International Date Palm Conference. “FAO will continue to strongly support your efforts in relation to rural development in general, and the date palm in particular.”

Working together

FAO has renewed two important partnerships in the region to support local date palm production.

FAO and the Khalifa International Award’s Board of Trustees, today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support the development of the regional date palm network, and to promote the exchange of experiences at regional level.

FAO’s agreement with KIADPAI is a continuation of the UN agency’s close collaboration with the United Arab Emirates in enhancing cooperation on food security issues in the region.

FAO has also renewed its alliance with the Arab Organization for Agriculture Development (AOAD) and the Khalifa Award Secretariat for the protection and sustainable development of the date palm value chain.

“I am very satisfied with the fruitful partnership that we have built with the Arab Organization for Agriculture Development,” Graziano da Silva said. “Together we are promoting a holistic, market-driven and inclusive approach to develop the date palm value chains in the North East and North African region, with a focus on increasing competitiveness of the local date palm, and promoting the access of small farmers to higher value markets.”

A symbol of life

The date palm is a symbol of life in the Near East and North Africa region. It is critical to the food security of the people who depend on it thanks to its unique nutritional properties. The date palm also plays a significant role in the economies of countries in the region, which includes the top 10 date-producing countries, representing 90% of the global date production.

Graziano da Silva told those attending the Khalifa Award that the consumption of dates has increased in Europe and the United States. He said there are therefore increased export opportunities, but it also means more challenges in terms of pressure on local natural resources, in particular water, and more risks associated with transboundary pests and diseases.

FAO’s role in controlling an invisible killer

At last year’s Khalifa Award session, the Director-General pledged to support countries to address the emerging challenges facing date palm development, such as the Red Palm Weevil which eats the trees from the inside thereby complicating detection, and which threatens significant socio-economic and environmental impacts.

Since then, FAO convened the First International Conference on the Red Palm Weevil at which an action plan for the progressive eradication of the pest was adopted. Implementation of that strategy is now underway. 

The Conference also endorsed a new global platform that will soon be launched, thanks to a contribution from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, to better facilitate the exchange of knowledge, information and expertise on Red Palm Weevil.

Paying tribute

During his speech, the Director-General paid tribute to Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zaied Al Nahyan, President of the State of the UAE; Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zaied Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces; and Sheikh Mansour Bin Zaied Al Nahyan, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidential Affairs for the priority they are giving to date palm development and to the sustainable agriculture development agenda.

The Director-General also paid tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founder of the UAE, who is being honored this year for his legacy and services to his people, nation and the world.

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