by Marwa Yahya, Ahmed al-Afyouni
NEW VALLEY, Egypt, Oct. 3 (Xinhua) -- A national marketing forum for dates started its 2nd annual edition on Sunday in Egypt's southwestern province of New Valley with the participation of about 100 producers from home and other Arab countries.
The three-day forum was launched by the Egyptian ministry of trade and industry, featuring a grand selling expo, activities for choosing the best exhibitors, and seminars on cultivation, said Mohamed al-Zamlot, governor of New Valley.
As the country's largest and most sparse-populated province, New Valley is also "Egypt's largest producer of high-quality dates and helps bring the most populous Arab country to the world's top producer of dates with different varieties," he told Xinhua.
By September, Egypt's annual date production has reached 1.8 million tonnes, constituting 19 percent of the world's output, and a quarter of the Arab region's, according to Amgad el-Kady, manager of the Food and Agro-Industries Technology Center in the ministry of trade and industry.
Egypt's ambitious plan to further excel in date farming can be seen in its ambition to establish the world's largest palm tree farm in Toshka in Aswan Province, southeast of New Valley, where 2.5 million palms are growing to provide the best types of dates for overseas consumers, said the manager.
Egypt mainly produces three types of dates, with the soft one planted in Delta provinces representing 50 percent of Egypt's output and the half-dry dates produced in Upper Egypt.
The third type, only for domestic consumption, is cultivated on Aswan's farms, according to el-Kady.
The cost of dates bought from these farms is now 20 Egyptian pounds (1.02 U.S. dollar) per kg, he said, adding 125,000 tonnes have been harvested from New Valley's farms so far.
Displaying his products in a small booth, Mohamed Hussein, who runs a date packaging company, said the expo was a big marketing opportunity as people can get to know the best and trending varieties, connecting with other producers, and leaning know-hows on palm tree cultivation.
Mo'men Raheem, an owner of a farm in New Valley, agrees that the discussions about new methods and machines during the forum were good for encouraging the farmers for expanding their harvest.
The exhibitions on the sideline of the event were "an easy channel for reaching the local and foreign markets," he said.