Pests, marketing constraints and poor research are combining to threaten date palm production in southwest Asia and North Africa, affecting an important food source for millions of people, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.
"Pests and diseases spread increasingly with the expansion of trade and travel in the globalizing world system," observed Peter Kenmore of the Rome-based FAO Plant Protection Service.
Over the last decade, productivity has declined in the traditional growing areas. As much as 30 per cent of production can potentially be lost as a result of disease and pests. In the Middle East, the Red Palm Weevil has recently become one of the major date palm pests, while "bayoud" disease, which is caused by a parasitic fungus, is a common threat to date palms in North Africa.
FAO recently launched a Global Date Palm Network to promote research and exchange of information on production, resources and on the ecological and social benefits of the fruit trees.
Dates are an extremely important subsistence crop in most of the desert regions and also form a vital part of the culture and agrobiodiversity in the region.
The Global Date Palm Network includes such countries as Algeria, Bahrain, Chile, Egypt, India, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Namibia, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.