The United Arab Emirates, UAE, has announced the contribution of US$ 2 million to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s, FAO, regional programme to combat Red Palm Weevil, RPW, one of the world’s most invasive pest species.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, and President of the Board of Trustees of the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation, made the announcement during the opening session of the Conference of Agricultural Ministers of the World’s Date Producing and Processing Countries in Abu Dhabi today.
Sheikh Nahyan said Mariam Hareb Almheiri, Minister of State for Food Security, will, in cooperation with the award, supervise the management and coordination of the UAE national programme to combat to the RPW in cooperation with the FAO, which will host the multi-donor credit fund and provide it with a high calibre base of technical experts in order to help member states to build national capacities to fight the RPW. Mariam Almheiri opened the conference on behalf of Sheikh Nahyan.
Organised by the Khalifa International Award for Date Palm and Agricultural Innovation in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment,MOCCAE, and the FAO, the two-day conference aims to develop a framework strategy for the eradication of the RPW, in addition to endorsing the establishment of a credit fund to finance its implementation.
”The UAE has spared no efforts to support the date palm sector locally, regional and globally and it is organising more than 15 dates festivals inside the UAE, 5 international festivals for Egyptian dates
and two festivals for Jordanian dates and one for Sudanese dates,” he stated.
”The UAE has contributed financial support anti-red weevil programmes in cooperation with regional and international organisations and stakeholders. It is important to support the FAO’s credit fund to enable it develop a framework strategy for the eradication of the transboundary pest,” he added.
The ministry says two-thirds of the UAE’s agricultural land is dedicated to cultivating date palms, and dates constitute 60 percent of its agricultural produce. Efforts to preserve the fruit-bearing trees have led to the UAE becoming the fourth-largest date-exporting country in the world with an 8.5 percent market share.
FAO says the RPW is among the greatest threats to palm trees worldwide. To date, the pest has caused losses to over 50 million farms. In the Mediterranean countries alone, the damage is estimated at euro 483 million. The conference will help address these challenges and advance the fight against the red palm weevil.
RPW is one of the world’s major invasive pest species and is the single most destructive pest of some 40 palm species worldwide.
RPW was detected in the Gulf region during the mid-eighties. Over the last three decades the weevil has spread rapidly through the Middle East and North Africa, affecting almost every country in the region. In total, it has now been detected in more than 60 countries including France, Greece, Italy, Spain and parts of the Caribbean and Central America.
Palm trees are an important resource for many communities in the Middle East and North Africa. Dates have been a basic food staple for centuries, and are now an important economic crop.
More than seven million tonnes of dates are produced annually. In total, around 100 million date palm trees are cultivated today, 60 percent of them in Arab countries.
RPW has significant socio-economic impact on the date palm production sector and livelihoods of farmers in affected areas. The weevil causes economic losses in the millions of dollars annually, whether through lost production or pest-control costs.
In Gulf countries and the Middle East,$8 million is lost each year through removal of severely-infested trees alone.
Integrated pest control methods such as the targeted and reduced use of insecticides and bio-pesticides, low-cost, highly-sensitive microphones that can detect larvae feeding inside a tree, pheromone-based traps, drones, remote-sensing, and sniffer dogs are essential to contain the pest’s spread.