The Local Dates Festival at Souq Waqif has been attracting a large number of residents and visitors, including those from neighbouring GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia.
The event, organised by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) in collaboration with the Souq Waqif administration, got under way on Thursday and would continue until August 14.
The festival showcases some of the popular varieties of dates produced by 18 Qatari farms, including Alfardan. These include Khanizi, Barhi, Arziz, Shishi, Khalas, Guar and Khasab.
The MME's Agricultural Affairs Department director Yusuf al-Khulaifi told Gulf Times that the festival aims to promote locally produced dates sold directly by farms to customers at cheaper rates.
“The quality of the dates that are locally produced is very good and we want to further improve it with the help of our research department,” he said, urging residents to patronise locally-produced dates.
Al-Khulaifi noted that they are planning to hold additional events as more farms have expressed interest in participating in future festivals.
The ministry gives them the opportunity to market their produce at the festival without paying any fee.
This year’s festival is running for 18 days in a tent set up at Souq Waqif, a bigger and longer version of the first edition held two years ago. The previous one was a three-day event intended only to exhibit varieties of dates.
“Previously, there was no selling involved because we only wanted to create public awareness,” the director added. “This time, people have the opportunity to buy from 4pm to 8pm.”
Farms are offering 3kg of dates for QR20, which many customers say is cheaper than the ones available in shops across Doha.
Indian national Mohamed Siraj, who works at a stall in Souq Waqif, said he bought dates worth QR15. “This may cost around QR25 or more at some outlets. Besides, they are fresh and of good quality here,” he added.
According to al-Khulaifi, some 839 of the 1,340 registered farms in Qatar are active and they grow more than 469,500 trees on 25,985 hectares of land.
Every year, he noted that these local farms produce more than 31,000 tonnes of dates, which is 88.4% of the total demand in the market.
Al-Khulaifi expressed optimism that the country can increase its exports to more than 181 tonnes annually.
While local production is increasing every year, he said they cannot totally stop importing dates from other countries such as Saudi Arabia and Oman.
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