Replanting old date palms to boost incomes


Dr. Hemesiri Kotagama, Dept. of Natural Resources Economics

Muscat: A study conducted by researchers at the Department of Natural Resources Economics at the College of Agricultural & Marine Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University has found that replanting old date palms could increase farm incomes in the Sultanate of Oman.
The study produced an optimal replanting schedule for date palms in the Sultanate, given the current age distribution of these date palms.

Amani Al Alawi, under the guidance of Dr. Hemesiri Kotagama from the Department of Natural Resources Economics, undertook this study as part of her MSc programme to estimate the optimal age for date palms to be replanted in the Sultanate.

Commenting on the outcome of their work, Dr. Kotagama said the incremental revenue for the Sultanate through the replanting of date palms was estimated to be OMR7 million per year. "Thus, the Sultanate could increase the revenue from the date-palm sector by about 13 per cent compared with the revenue from this sector in 2011 (OMR52.6 million) by adopting the derived replanting schedule.

The findings of the study suggest the benefits of implementing a date-palm replanting programme, including improving the date-palm sectors' contribution to society and to the economy of the country.

The government could plan and implement such a programme, while providing guidance and appropriate incentives for farmers to adopt a date-palm replanting programme. The methodology and models developed in this study could be useful tools for planning such a programme at a national and farm level," Dr. Kotagama remarked.

Date palms are the most significant crop, both culturally and socio-economically, in the Sultanate. Since the year 2000, the number of date palms cultivated and the production scale of the date-palm sector have stagnated. It is estimated that nearly 37 per cent  of the date palms in the Sultanate of Oman are more than 50 years old. The Sultanate's government has implemented a programme to rejuvenate the sector by planting one million date palms.

Date palms can be planted as new seedlings, requiring additional land, water, and other resources, or they can be replanted, replacing aged and unproductive palms without the additional commitment of land, water, and other resources. The replanting of perennial crops is an agronomic practice that maximizes and sustains long-term benefits and can improve the livelihood of farmers.

Although the optimal age for replanting several perennial crops (rubber trees, coconut trees, oil palms, and fruit trees) has been scientifically estimated, the optimal age for replanting date palms has not yet been scientifically determined.

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