Sharjah Chamber announces sixth edition of Al Dhaid Date Festival 2022

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Top officials speak to the media on Tuesday. John Varughese/Gulf Today

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

The Sharjah Chamber of Commerce (SCCI) and Industry has announced that the 6th edition of the Al Dhaid Date Festival 2022 will take place from July 21 to 24 at Expo Al Dhaid. Organised and sponsored by SCCI, the festival will bring together hundreds of palm farmers from around the UAE.

During a press conference held on Tuesday at Expo Al Dhaid, the organising committee revealed the value of the prizes allocated for the sixth edition’s competitions. It’s Dhs1 million and will be given to 145 winners of the festival’s six primary categories. The awards have a value that varies from Dhs 1,000 to Dhs 25,000.

Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) Director General Mohamed Ahmed Amin Alawadi told Gulf Today that this is the sixth year and from the original 120 farmers to 280 farmers all over the UAE in 2021, this year and after the (Novel Coronavirus) pandemic, there are about 400 to 500 farmers joining this year.”

With Alawadi at the press conference were Festival Screening and Evaluation Committee chairman Rashid Mohair Al Ketbi, Festival general coordinator Mohamed Mosbeh Al Tunaiji and Al Wusta Channel Director Saeed Bin Fadel Al Ketbi.

The first “Al Dhaid Dates Festival” was held in 2016. It has since been an SCCI yearly activity to promote the tourism and local heritage of Al Dhaid, the capital of the Central Region located northeast of Sharjah.

During the  press conference, Alawadi said: “We seek, through the festival, to preserve the cultural heritage of the UAE, and activate and revitalize the economic movement by creating an annual platform that draws the attention of key players in the date trade.”

Alawadi mentioned that aside from the farmers, yearly participants are all government entities involved in the Date industry such as the municipalities and agriculture institutions: “This has been under the umbrella of the (SCCI) and there are many competitions lined up each year for the farmers. They are basically competing for the best quality, size, (look and taste) of the Dates like the Lulu and the Khenaizi types.”

A total of Dhs1 million are up for grabs for all the competitions spread out in four days wherein 145 winners are targeted for six primary categories who may win between Dhs1,000.00 and Dhs25,000.00.

For this, from the press conference, as Festival Screening and Evaluation Committee chairman Al Ketbi pointed out that as the crowd-drawing event narrates the positive effects of twinning cultural immersion and business growth, he also announced the launch of a new competition aimed at enticing more farmers to develop palm cultivation. This is the “Most Beautiful Basket Competition” for women from 25 years old and above.

From the sidelines, Alawadi said: “We have been organizing the event to encourage and help our farmers improve on their (production and yield).”

On Al Dhaid as the venue, Alawadi said: “(The city) is very famous for the dates—the good quality, good size, good farmers, good irrigation system and good water for the dates which must be pure coming from the (Hajjar Mountains which the UAE shares with Oman) and from under the desert.”

The date has 120 varieties with Alawadi having mentioned two. These are the Al Lulu, also known as “plum date” because these are plum-like in appearance, small, roundish and wrinklish; and the black, soft and mildly sweet Al Khenaizi, the commonest across the UAE as it is grown all over the country.

The Ips International website cited Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) records revealing that about 100 million date palm trees have been planted and farmed across the globe. Of these, 600,000 metric tons are produced from the UAE each year.

Date palm trees are essential to the UAE culture as historically, while it has become part of their diet and nutrition, these provide them shelter. The trunk and the fronds are the building materials for their houses. The leaves are used for traditional handicrafts.

Meanwhile, last March, from the “Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricutural Innovation Seventh Conference” in Abu Dhabi, FAO-Near East and North Africa Regional representative AbdulHakim El-Waer pointed out the contributions of the youth in propagating the date palm industry relative to the Fourth Industrial Revolution: “We should focus more on the younger generation and motivate them to engage more in agricultural work because of their ability to be creative and innovative. They are the new blood on which we rely to find unconventional solutions to problems and challenges that the agricultural sector has been suffering from for decades and still persist.”

Khalil Al Mansouri, Director of Expo KhorFakkan, and a number of senior officials and representatives of local media were also present.

“We seek, through the festival, to preserve the cultural heritage of the UAE, and activate and revitalize the economic movement by creating an annual platform that draws the attention of key players in the date trade,” SCCI’s Director-General said, adding that the festival this year is jam-packed with numerous events in addition to the traditional competitions.

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