Dates are a very healthy fruits and it’s being demanded more every day. The demand from the end consumer is raising because of the health benefits, but also the demand is raising on the production of dates itself, as it adds value to the food safety objective.
Dates production is very ancient as it could be traced to 4000 B.C in both ancient Iraq and ancient Egypt.
In ancient Egypt, known as the pre-dynastic period, prehistoric mummies were wrapped with mats made from palm fronds. For example, a small palm was discovered besides a mummy in the Saqqara tombs, which dates from the first dynasty about3 200 years BC.
In Egyptian society, the Date Palm represents renewable, natural and continuous economic pillars throughout one’s life spanning generations
The Egyptian Date Palm farmer benefits from every part of the tree. He uses its leaves to make mats and cages that can be used to transport agricultural produce as well as birds.
Its fiber can be used in the manufacture of manual cleaners, washing facilities and on crockery as a water cooler. In the desert, leaf bunches are used to make brooms, and the trunks used as pillars for the roofs of rural and desert buildings.
Date Palms are adaptable to a wide range of environmental conditions so they are grown all over Egypt - covering different regions and governorates from north of the Mediterranean coast to south of the High Dam. In addition, there are dense cultivations of Date Palms in various oases of the Western desert especially Siwa, El-Bahariya, El-Farafra, El-Dakhla, El-Kharga and El-Fayoum Oases. Additionally, they are found in the valleys of southern and Northern Sinai and along the shore of the Red Sea, a water source of the Egyptian deserts
Date Palms are considered to be a national wealth, given their economic, social and nutritional and health benefits. Therefore, they must be maintained, conserved and developed since their cultivation contributes to the national domestic income by more than ten billion Egyptian Pounds a year.
Dates are considered to be the richest fruit in nutritional value and provide many benefits because they contain multiple nutrients elements as carbohydrates with a high amount of sugars, water and minerals plus many important vitamins and different amino acids.
The palm tree which is scientifically known as phoenix dactylifera, consists of an adventitious fibrous roots that emerges in large numbers that emerges from the trunk base under the soil surface, and a single cylindrical trunk, a crown that’s located at the top of the trunk and consists of compound large-pinnate leaves, and a foliage.
Types of date palm cultivars can be divided into three groups.
1- Soft dates they are consumed fresh. This fruit matures fully in the soft phases. This fruit has a high moisture content, more than 30 percent, making it highly perishable
2- Semi-dry or semi-soft dates This fruit is consumed in a relatively dry phase (without hardening), and some varieties of this group can be consumed in the previous phases (e.g. soft phase). It is an intermediate phase between soft and dry phases, where the moisture content ranges from 20 to 30 percent.
3- Dry dates, The moisture content of this fruit is less than 20 percent; and it is often consumed in the dry phase
In Egypt there is more than 70 types of dates that could be divided into very common cultivars like the Amhaat, Bartamouda and Hayani.
Common cultivars like Aglani and Agua.
Rare cultivars like aienat and centrawi.
Endemic cultivars like Abou Teda and Afrah
Arabic cultivars like medjool
Dates are grown in over 30 countries around the world, in recent years, date fruit has gained significant importance in global commerce. During the last two decades, global production of dates has more than doubled. The majority of date palm-growing areas are located in developing or underdeveloped countries where date fruit is considered a primary food crop, thus playing a major role in the nutritional status of these communities. Marketing of dates involves various operations through the value-chain, as harvesting, cleaning, grading, packaging, processing, and transportation/shipment to local or export markets. Some of the major challenges confronting date fruit production and commerce are issues related to postharvest handling technologies, use of appropriate processing and packaging technologies, food safety aspects, and quality assurance.
Also another economic aspect of date production is it’s being processed and used in many industries for example it’s being used in bioactive compounds production.
Egypt comes first in the production of dates, but only 3% of this production is being exported which makes it comes 8th in the global market of dates exporting, because the produced dates are the types that are not demanded internationally.
In 2019 Egypt started a national project that aims to grow 7 million date palms, targeting more economic dates that are required globally like medjool, this project is to be funded with 24 billion EGP.
The difficulties facing this project is finding and training the qualified manpower and enable them on handling palm trees, the global marketing efforts to allow Egypt to gain more international market share, and the infrastructure. the government is allowing private sectors to invest in this project to benefit them and the government both.