Experts back Saudi Arabia’s bid to add dates to world ‘super fruit’ list

Experts back Saudi Arabia’s bid to add dates to world ‘super fruit’ list

RIYADH (Rahnuma):  Experts have backed calls by Saudi Arabia to have dates classified as a “super fruit” due to their vital role in global food security.

As awareness of the fruit’s high nutritional value grows, world demand is rising annually with the market for dates now worth $1.2 billion per year.

The Kingdom’s permanent representative to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Mohammed Al-Ghamdi, spoke at a special workshop on the healthy food held at the UN agency’s headquarters in the Italian capital Rome.

He was joined by scientists and experts from around the world, and representatives of Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Germany were among the high-profile conference speakers.

The sweet-tasting fruit, which has been cultivated for more than 6,000 years, is grown in at least 40 countries.
Addressing delegates, the FAO deputy director-general for climate and natural resources, Maria Helena Semedo, thanked Saudi Arabia for organizing the workshop and said: “Although dates first came from the Middle East, today, all continents are either producing or consuming them.

“Dates are extraordinary fruits given their nutritional value and contribution to nutrition and healthy diets.”

Semedo noted that the workshop provided the launchpad for more discussions regarding the sustainability and development of the date sector to serve the product and the consumer.

In his speech to the seminar, undersecretary of the Saudi Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, Eng. Mohammed Al-Ayada, said: “There are more than 200 million palms in the world producing more than 8 million tons yearly.

“This makes it imperative to work on maximizing the benefits of this important product, especially as the demand on it is increasing yearly in developed countries by 15 percent in terms of value and 9 percent in terms of the market’s size, given the increasing awareness of the fruit’s nutritional value.”

Al-Ayada said the workshop was the culmination of efforts that started 11 months ago, in partnership with international organizations and researchers, to include dates on the list of fruits with high nutritional value.
The FAO assistant director-general of agriculture and consumer protection, Dr. Abubakr Tijani, said the gathering had shed light on the role of dates in nutrition and food security, especially in dry and difficult zones, and their potential contribution to achieving the UN’s zero-hunger goal.

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