Eventful date nights at the Liwa festival

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Eventful date nights at the Liwa festival

Abu Dhabi - The Liwa Dates Festival aims to cultivate a circle of farming market wealth - sustainable, healthy agricultural methods that produce high quality dates yielding greater financial income


Silvia Radan

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Published: Tue 26 Jul 2016, 6:51 PM

Some 35 government and private companies have set up pavilions in the Liwa Dates Festival exhibition area, promoting the latest trends and achievements in the business of dates.
There is Al Dhafra, one of UAE's largest dates company, which recently reported that the UAE is now the world's biggest exporter of dates, exceeding 100,000 tons per year. The UAE University displays its dedicated research programme on the cultivation of date palm trees.
Another pavilion belongs to Abu Dhabi Farmers Services Centre, the first to teach farmers here how to prune, treat and care for date palms, six years ago.
"When we first started cutting down infected parts of the palm trees and pruning them, the farmers were angry with us, thinking we are damaging their trees. We even got death threats! Now, they all know how to better care for the palms, and they are teaching their friends and neighbours," said a representative of the Centre.
Rich heritage grows modern
Liwa, Madinat Zayed, and Al Ain are the centres of UAE date palm farming, and while they are also oases of centuries-old Emirati traditions, modernity is heartily welcomed when it comes to agriculture.
Now in its 12th year, the Liwa Dates Festival, organised by the Cultural Programs and Heritage Festivals Committee - Abu Dhabi from July 20-30 in Mazeirah, the main town of Western Region's Liwa Oasis, has had a major impact on raising the bar in date palm farming.
It does so by richly rewarding the best cultivated dates and the best-kept farms. "One of the criteria to win a best dates award is the state of the farm. Judges choose the competition's best dates by also visiting and inspecting the farm it's sourced from; that is added to the final score. They look at the general conditions of the farm, irrigation efficiency, and whether it uses pesticides or other chemicals, which we strongly advise against," revealed Abdullah Butti Al Qubaisi, Director of Projects Management and Communication at the Committee.
"Over the years, we've witnessed great improvements in farming practices and, the quality of dates has improved as a result," he said. The Liwa Dates Festival awards the 15 best positions in 10 ratab (half-ripe dates) competitons; prizes going up to Dh50,000 for the biggest Ethag (branches of dates); and up to Dh200,000 for the best Nukhba (baskets of mixed ratab dates).
It's also a highly cultural event encouraging heritage-related arts and crafts through competitions and a traditional souk, where Emirati women sell their handicrafts and traditional products.
"Furthermore, winning at Liwa Dates Festival is not just about the financial prize. Winners become well reputed and their dates are in high demand in the market," Al Qubaisi added.
It is this circle of farming market wealth - sustainable, healthy agricultural methods that produce high quality dates yielding greater financial income - that is the ultimate aim of Liwa Dates Festival: to help the economy of Al Gharbia region while preserving and enlivening our deeply rooted heritage.

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