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Saudi Prince Faisal opens world’s largest dates festival in Buraidah

Qassim Deputy Gov. Prince Faisal bin Mishaal opens the 10 dates festival in Buraidah on Thursday. (SPA)

Source : Md Al-Harbi | Arab News

BURAIDAH | 19 Aug 2011

Prince Faisal bin Mishaal, deputy governor of Qassim, inaugurated the 10th Buraidah Dates Festival late Thursday and commended the roles of public and private sectors to make the annual festival a big success.

Prince Faisal toured the various pavilions, including those for date palm plants and dates production as well as public and private sectors participating in the event.

“The festival has made qualitative improvement over the past years,” the prince said, adding that it plays a significant role in boosting the province’s economic development.

More than 200,000 tons of dates valued at SR2.5 billion will be made available during the 75-day festival for customers from the Kingdom and neighboring countries to buy.

“We expect a 20 percent increase in supply during the festival,” said Khaled Al-Naqidan, CEO of the festival. He said the event would create 3,000 jobs for Saudis.

The festival site covers an area of 300,000 sq. meters that can accommodate 2,000 trucks and cold-storage vehicles.

The Buraidah date market, the largest in the world, operates around the clock, receiving clients from different parts of the Kingdom as well as from neighboring Gulf and Arab countries. More than 1,000 trucks carrying 160 tons of dates come to the market every day.

The festival offers more than 35 varieties of dates, mostly produced in Qassim farms. The prices vary between SR25 and SR400 per kg, depending on the variety and quality. The sukkari (sweet) type attracts the largest number of customers.

“People can see electronic auction of dates here for the first time,” said an organizer. “The festival also trains youths on caring for and processing dates,” he said.

Women are also trained on being attentive to details of the date farming till the sorting of dates during the event. The festival unveiled two programs — sponsorship of palm trees and experimental feeding. The sponsorship of trees involves the financial sponsorship of youths who want to buy and market products.

Saudi Arabia has the highest number of palm trees in the world with more than 23 million trees accounting for 20 percent of the world production.

The government attention for dates is an essential part of its food security policy. Date is also a cultural, religious and national symbol of the Kingdom.

State-owned Agricultural Development Bank provides soft loans to farmers to buy agricultural equipment. The government gives free land for those who plant date palm trees and encourages farmers to apply modern irrigation systems.

Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC) has established a date palm research center in Ahsa under the King Faisal University in Ahsa and a laboratory for testing soil, water and plants. The festival has attracted Saudi youths from different parts of the country, as they have learned from friends who worked for previous festivals that it is a good opportunity to make extra money.

“The management of the festival has provided carts for youths interested in selling dates during the event,” said Mansour Al-Mushaiti, director of the date market.

Muhammad Al-Buraidi, a university student, said many youths in Buraidah were interested in working during the festival. Some of them work as agents to auction cartons of dates. They invite customers to offer their prices and those who offer the largest price win the deal.

According to one market analyst, at least 20 new agents appear in the market every year. They get a commission of 7 percent of the deal from farmers. Only Saudis are allowed to work as agents.

A variety of programs will be held on the sidelines of the festival. Visitors will also be taken on a tour of date farms in Buraidah.

 

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