Harvesting and Postharvest Handling of Dates

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Date Palm (Phoenix dactylifera L.) is thought to have originated in Mesopotamia (what is now Iraq) and its cultivation spread to the Arabian Peninsula, North Africa, and the Middle Eastern Countries in ancient times (about 5000 years ago). In 2006, world production of dates was about 7 million tons and the top 10 producing countries were Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Algeria, Sudan, Oman, Libya, and Tunisia. There are thousands of date palm cultivars, including those with soft, semi-dry, and dry fruits (depending on their water content at harvest when fully-ripe), grown in these countries. Examples of soft date cultivars (> 30% moisture) include Abada, Amhat, Barhee, Bentaisha, Halawy, Hayany, Honey, Khadrawy, and Medjool (Mejhool). Semidry date cultivars (20-30% moisture) include Amry, Dayri, Deglet Noor, Khalasa, Sewy, and Zahidi. Dry date cultivars (<20% moisture) include Badrayah, Bartamoda, Deglet Beida, Horra, Sakoty, and Thoory.

Dates are nutritious, high-energy food, and important part of the diets of people in the Arab countries and are consumed fresh, dried, or in various processed forms. However, losses during harvesting and postharvest handling and marketing are high due to incidence of physical and physiological disorders and pathological diseases and to insect infestation . These losses can be reduced by understanding and implementing the recommendations given in this bulletin.

Adel A. Kader
Awad M. Hussein
International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)