Dates are an important revenue-generator at Morocco’s Saharan oases as well as being traditional symbols of good luck.
Rabat – The date palm industry in Morocco generates MAD 2 billion ($207 million), the Ministry of Agriculture announced. The ministry gave the statement on the occasion of the International Date Fair, also called the Guetna Festival, in Erfoud, an oasis town in eastern Morocco, reported state-owned media outlet Maghreb Arab Press (MAP).
Dates play a central role in the economic activity of oases. Revenue from dates make up 60% of agricultural income at oases, the ministry noted.
More than 2 million people work in the date industry in Morocco.
As one of the largest producers of dates in Morocco, Erfoud is an appropriate host for the Moroccan date festival. The fair includes camel racing and evening fashion shows.
The Ministry of Agriculture began an aggressive program to increase Morocco’s date palms in 2009 as part of Morocco’s Green Plan. By the end of 2019, the ministry says, it will have exceeded its goal of planting 3 million date palms by 2020.
In 2017, Morocco produced 112,000 tons of dates. At the same time, Morocco imports vast quantities of dates and is the world’s largest importer of Tunisian dates.
But Morocco is also an exporter. The popular majhool date, “the king of dates,” originates from Morocco but is now grown as far abroad as California and South Africa. Israel is the world’s largest producer of majhool dates, many of which grow on the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
As well as an important economic industry, dates have great cultural importance in Morocco. During Ramadan, Muslims break the fast by eating several dates. Dates are also a symbol of luck and fertility.