The date palm farms in Iraq is facing many obstacles such pests, drought, high cost of production, low market price and city’s urban expansion. Most of these obstacles are rather difficult to solve on short term yet others such as pests has to be manage immediately. Some pests such as Dubas Bug, Borers, and Fungal diseases affect directly the product but others such Red Palm Weevil R. ferrugineus, which recently had invaded the country, is a real threat to the country date palm wealth in Iraq.
In his welcoming address Mr. Fadel El-Zubi, FAO Representative in Iraq states that FAO has funded a project to support the governments’ efforts to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of R. ferrugineus and its potential detrimental effects. The expected impact of the project is “Food security and saving the income of farmers in Iraq”. Hence, it is envisaged that the project will positively contribute to save more than 100,000 hectares of date palm trees ,the income and livelihood of more than 10 million farmer‘s families member in Iraq El-Zubi underscore the importance to enhances the regional coordination and cooperation on fighting RPW, establishing joint monitoring mechanism for RPW eradication between the three countries.
Mr. Hamid Hadwan, the Director of Plant Protection at the Iraqi Ministry of Agriculture, emphasized in his message socially, economically and environmentally values of palm trees in Iraq. According the latest survey of date palm plantations conducted by the ministry of agriculture have estimated that there more than 21 million date palm Phoenix datctylifera L.tree in Iraq distributed over 13 governorates, namely BASRAH, MESAN, SAMAWA, THIQAR, DEWANIA, ALNAJAF, KARBLAH, BABIL, WASIT, BAGHDAD, DIYALA, ALANBAR and SALAH-ALDEEN with estimated area over 500,000 donum (one Iraqi donum= 2500 m2 ). Date is the only exported agriculture commodity with an estimated exported quantity of more than 300'000 M tones annually. In addition, many young men and women earn their incomes through working on implementing of different agriculture practices on date palm orchards; such as pruning, pollination, dates harvests and packing.
Mr. Shoki Al- Dobai, the FAO Regional Crop Protection Officer for the Near East and North Africa Region pointed out to the importance of the Date Palms that represent the symbol of life in the Near East and North Africa Region (NENA). With around 90% of the global date production, date palm production is considered an important source of food security, income for rural communities and the national economies in the NENA Region. Over the past three decades, FAO implemented over 37 FAO projects that have significantly contributed to improving the date palm sector through income generation and livelihoods in farmer communities, and enhanced capabilities of the national authorities. Of them, six projects has been implemented since 2012 with focus on support the NENA countries in Red Palm Weevil Management.
Mr. AlDobai stressed on the importance of the coordination and cooperation between the countries to effectively manage and contain the spread of the trans boundary pests that do not recognize the borders. He added, to enhance the effectiveness of the national management programs of RPW management and strengthen the coordination and cooperation between the countries, FAO is going to organize a ‘Scientific Consultation and High Level Meeting’ in 29-31 March in FAO HQs in Rome, Italy. The Scientific Consultation will bring together all stakeholders involved in management of Red Palm Weevil (national authorities, international exerts and scientists, private sector, non-governmental organizations) to have thorough technical discussion on the challenges facing the effective management of the pest and options for improving the management programs, and to exchange the success stories and lessons learned from different regions. The expected outcome of the consultation is a well-defined multi-disciplinary multi-regional strategy for the management and containment of Red Palm Weevil to be endorsed by the High Level Meeting in the last day of the event.
Iran representative, Mr. Dr. Mohammad Ali Baghestani, has presented the long journey in fighting RPW and provided the prevention precautions adapted by the government of Islamic Republic of Iran. The Plant Protection Expert in MOA in Iraq also presented the diagnosis of RPW in Basrah on 2015 and Phase 1 activities to control it. His presentation also included phase 2-work plan to eradicate RPW.
Finally, Mr. Abdulamir Alqalaf, Plant Protection Manager in MOA – Kuwait has presented Kuwait effort to fight and control the RPW. The national survey for inspection of affected palms in Kuwait was explained. The coordination meeting also involved the participation of Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources in KRI and experts from FAO Regional Office in Cairo. This meeting was concluded by a regional agreement to draw the road map and identify eradications mechanisms.
For more information, please contact:
FAO Communication Officer Mowaffaq Al-Refai