Iraq Tries to Revive Ailing Date Industry

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Khalid al-Ansary

2011-04-28T103424Z_793582934_GM1E74S1FL501_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-DATES2011-04-28T103730Z_2056488549_GM1E74S1FU001_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-DATES2011-04-28T104353Z_626090504_GM1E74S1FZA01_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-DATES

BAGHDAD, April 27 (Reuters) – Standing in the middle of what was once a date palm oasis overlooking the Tigris River, Salim Abdulla al-Salim sees little hope in Iraq’s quest to relive its heyday as the world’s leading producer of dates.

Once, before its 1980s war with Iran, Iraq had 30 million date palms producing 1 million tonnes of dates annually.

But Saddam Hussein’s military campaigns and decades of neglect savaged the industry, cutting the number of trees in half and yearly production to 420,000 tonnes.

Young Iraqis, needed to scale the tall palms to hand-cut and lower bunches of golden fruit to the ground, see no future in it and are leaving the orchards for government jobs with better salaries and fewer hardships, Salim said.

“The industry is not viable any more. The revenues don’t cover the money spent on preparing the palms for production,” said Salim, a date farmer with 6,000 trees.

“In the past, the young generations were adopting their ancestors’ jobs, but now they have shifted to police, army and civil jobs, abandoning the date industry,” said Salim, standing in his dusty palm orchard in Baghdad’s Doura district of Doura.

Iraq, which relies on its vast oil and gas fields for most of its economy, now ranks only 7th among world date producers, according to Kamil Mikhlif al-Dulaimi, head of the Agriculture Ministry’s date palm board.

But the ministry has an ambitious $80 million plan to rebuild the date palm inventory up to 40 million trees in 10 years and to introduce more marketable varieties.

“We are working now to change the date palm map, and to produce the species the world wants,” Dulaimi said.

Ninety percent of Iraq’s production is one variety of date, the Zehdi. The ministry is expanding the menu to include the Hillawi, Khadrawi, Sayer, Maktoom, Derrie, Ashrasi and Barhee varieties.

It is also introducing new types of laboratory-produced trees that will bear fruit in two years instead of the four or five it usually takes.

The ministry recently signed a $17 million contract to buy seven crop-spraying helicopters to fight orchard pests.

“Having these helicopters means a big step forward for the agriculture sector,” Deputy Agriculture Minister Ghazi al-Abboudi said in an interview.

Boosting Production

The government’s hope is to double production to more than 800,000 tonnes annually in two years’ time, Abboudi said.

Dulaimi’s goal appears more modest — to boost the industry to 800,000-1 million tonnes in ten years.

In the 1970s Iraq sent 700,000 tonnes of dates abroad each year but last year exported only 200,000 tonnes, according to Mohammad Sulaiman, head of the Iraqi government’s date processing and marketing company.

Domestically, Iraq consumes about 100,000 tonnes yearly, and farmers in a depressed industry grumble about imports of foreign dates. “I wonder why the government allows imported dates in? Don’t we have dates?” asks Salim, the date farmer.

His groves are filled with weeds. Many of his trees have brittle brown fronds hanging limply, and clumps of dried fruit that should have been picked months ago. Salim said he didn’t bother because it would not have been financially worthwhile.

Iraqi date palms produced 150-200 kg (330-440 pounds) per tree in the 1990s, when water quality, fertilizers, pollination and pest control were better. Output is now down to just 50 kg, according to Salim.

The government is trying to help farmers boost production via subsidies for fertilizers and crop-dusting helicopters, agriculture officials say, and offers soft loans for processing and storage facilities.
“We started to give loans to investors to build warehouses, and they are increasing. We have now around 80 warehouses in Iraq,” Abboudi said.

The ministry also buys dates at $385 a tonne and sells to exporters at half that price to shore up the industry, he said — effectively subsidising farmers to keep them cultivating dates.

But farmers like Salim say they would rather sell to a private middle man at $300 a tonne than face the Iraqi government’s tangled bureaucracy for the extra $85.

Feroun Ahmed Hussein, the owner of 4,000 palms in Baghdad’s Doura district, said many farmers are selling off their land for housing projects despite farm-protection laws enacted before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that are still on the books.

“Some people figured that the government is not in a strong position and started to sell these agricultural lands to turn them into residential,” Hussein said.

Agriculture contributes about 10.2 percent to gross domestic product, according to government statistics, a relatively small slice of an emerging economy dominated by oil.

Iraq has signed deals with oil companies that it hopes will vault it into the top rank of world producers in six years.

But Dulaimi said Iraq should not rely only on oil.

“We are an agricultural country … it is not in our policy to keep depending on oil,” he said. “Oil will run out one day.”

(Editing by Jim Loney and Mark Heinrich)

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Harun Yahya – Unawareness—A Sly Threat

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

They believe they are on the right path

Taking the general population as an example, the most salient characteristic of heedless individuals is their attempt to persuade themselves that their thoughts and actions are justified. Believing that they are not harming others and that their hearts are filled with goodness, they imagine that they deserve what they have. However, Allah says something rather different in the Qur’an:

Do they imagine that, in the wealth and children We extend to them, We are hastening to them with good things? No indeed, but they have no awareness!

Al-Mu’minun: 55-56

It is revealed in the Qur’an that such people believe that they are on the right path, and so satan prevents them from obeying Allah’s commands and prohibitions:

They debar them from the path, yet they still think they are guided.

Al-Zukhruf: 37

But your Lord knows best who is best guided on the (right) Path.

Al-Isra’: 84

Allah gives an instructive example of the state of such individuals in the story of the vineyard owner. We are told in the Qur’an of a conversation between two people, only one of whom is aware:

Make an example for them of two men. To one of them We gave two gardens of grapevines and surrounded them with date palms, putting between them some cultivated land. Both gardens yielded their crops and did not suffer any loss, and We made a river flow right through the middle of them.

Al-Kahf: 32-33

He entered his garden and wronged himself by saying: “I do not think that this will ever end. I do not think the Hour will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return.”

Al-Kahf: 35-36

His companion, with whom he was debating, asked: “Do you then not believe in Him Who created you from dust, then from a drop of sperm, and then formed you as a man? He is, however, Allah, my Lord, and I will not associate anyone with my Lord.” (His companion replied:) “Why, when you entered your garden, did you not say: ‘It is as Allah wills, there is no strength but in Him’? Though you see me with less wealth and children than you possess, it may well be that my Lord will give me something better than your garden and send down upon it a fireball from the sky so that the morning finds it a shifting heap of dust or finds its water drained into the ground so that you cannot get at it.

Al-Kahf: 37-41

The fruits of his labor were completely destroyed, and he woke up wringing his hands in grief, for everything that he had spent on it was now a ruin, a ruin with all of its trellises fallen in. He exclaimed: “Oh, if only I had not associated anyone with my Lord!” There was no group to come to his aid, besides Allah, and he was not given any help. In that situation, the only protection is from Allah, the Real. He gives the best reward and the best outcome.

Al-Kahf: 42-44

The vineyard owner was deceived into thinking that he was on the right path due to his great wealth and many children. His very words demonstrate his unawareness, for his overwhelming pride and arrogance made it impossible for him to conceive of Allah’s power: “But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return.”, His unawareness is so deep that he thinks he created his garden and therefore will keep it forever. In recompense for his attitude, all of a sudden Allah destroyed his treasured vineyard.

Although they are unaware, some individuals think that they are on the right path and do some good deeds. However, these are not done to gain Allah’s favor but out of custom and habit, or out of a desire to put on appearances or soothe their consciences, or to make someone feel grateful to them. In reality, such deeds may not be of any use in the Hereafter, because they are limited only to those actions that do not conflict with the person’s own interests. Unaware that they may not receive a reward for the deeds they did to curry other people’s favor rather than to please Allah, they feel certainly sure that they are on the right path.

These people regard their children, property, and easy and carefree life as signs that they are on the right path. The fact is, however, that Allah allots them a period of time to test them and, due to their actions, gives them no share in the Hereafter:

As for those who desire the life of this world and its finery, We will give them full payment in it for their actions. They will not be deprived here of their due. But such people will have nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire. What they achieved here will come to nothing. What they did will prove to be null and void.

Hud: 15-16

People who deceive themselves in this way gain nothing but a painful death in a state of unawareness and eternal suffering:

Do not let their wealth and their children impress you. Allah merely wants to punish them by them in this world, and for them to die while they are unbelievers.

Al-Tawba: 85

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