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UAE date farmers welcome arrival of rutab, marking start of season

UAE date farmers welcome arrival of rutab, marking start of season
18 June 2024 08:15

Ihab Al Rifai (Al Dhafra Region)

Emirati date farmers are welcoming the arrival of rutab, or half-ripe dates, heralding the beginning of the dates season, which holds a special place in the hearts of Emiratis.

Dr. Abdul Wahab Zayed, Secretary General of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation, said that the UAE is currently enjoying the joyful onset of the rutab season.

Rutab dates are highly nutritious, and are a treat especially cherished in the UAE at the beginning of the season, which typically starts in early June, with slight variations depending on region and climate.

In the UAE, there are special customs associated with rutab, such as eagerly awaiting the laden palm clusters to harvest the first rutab, signalling the start of the season, The Secretary General added. Due to its significance, farmers race to announce the news of the first rutab publicly, as it is a point of pride to be among the first farms to herald the news. The first rutab is given to cherished individuals, reflecting the esteemed position of the recipient, whether within or outside the family.

As usual, Al Dhafra region, known for cultivating date palm trees and producing the finest dates, announced the early appearance of rutab this season.

This year, farmer Rashid bin Hadha Al Marri launched the “Bishara Sign” contest, encouraging Liwa date farm owners to produce rutab within one of four different categories: Khalas, Khuneizi, Naghal, and the open category. Plaques and cash prizes were allocated for the winning farmers who could produce the best early-season rutab in these categories.

Rashid Hadha Al Marri said that the inaugural launch of the contest in Al Dhafra aimed to encourage farmers and translate the competition into organised work plans and production, benefiting both the palm tree and the farmer. This has resulted in higher quality and earlier production of rutab, Al Marri said.

Al Marri noted that the Bishara Sign saw significant participation and exceeded expectations, leading to an increase in the quantity and variety of early rutab. This year, for the first time, early Khalas and Khuneizi rutab were received, traditionally appearing in July, indicating the success of the award in achieving its goals.

Matar Said Al Mansouri, who won first place in the open category, said that farmers put concerted effort into producing the early rutab in Al Dhafra this year, all in the spirit of friendly competition. 

Rutab dates offer numerous health benefits, and are associated with strengthening the optic nerve, maintaining eye health, treating iron deficiency and preventing anemia, strengthening bones and teeth, maintaining nervous system health, building muscles, and providing energy to the body.

The UAE boasts 250 varieties of dates, with 135 known types classified as “Kharaif” with the rest known as “Sayer”. Varieties are often named based on the fruit’s color, such as Ashhal, Deklet Beydh, Hamri, Khidri, and Khadrawi.

Other factors influencing each type of date’s name include the fruit’s color, shape, ripening time, place of origin, or the person who discovered the variety. Each type of date has a unique taste, with many of the names reflecting their sweetness, such as Sukkari (sugary) and Hilwa (sweet). Dates are classified based on ripening time into early, mid, and late varieties.

Some of the Most Popular Locally Produced Date Varieties include the following: Khalas, Medjool, Barhi, Lulu, Abu Maan, Jabri, Khneizi, Khadouri, Dabbas, Rziz, Sukkari, Sultana, Maktoomi, Fard, Shishi, Hilali, Nabtat Saif, Naghal, Musalli, Ein Baqar, Shahla, Khasab, Jash Habash, Jash Rabie, Jash Wa’ab, Jash Falaqa, Jash Jaafar, Jash Hamad, Abu Al-Kibal, and Anwan.

The date palm tree requires significant care throughout the year to achieve high-quality date production. The process begins with weeding, followed by pruning the palms and utilising their secondary byproducts. Next is the process of pollination, which is crucial due to its direct impact on date characteristics. Thinning the palm is also essential for maintaining the tree, as it directly affects yield quantity and consistency for future seasons.

The wise leadership of the UAE has organised various festivals dedicated to dates and date palm trees, which help educate farmers on modern farming and production techniques to provide the best quality dates. Festivals like the Liwa Date Festival also encouraging citizens market different date products.

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