Date palm plantations line the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq. Once leading date exporters, they now rely heavily on the domestic market. But Iraq only consumes around half of the 350,000 tonnes of dates it produces annually, leaving around 150,000 tonnes of dates a year to be disposed of. Some are fed to animals. Many are left to rot.
Now, according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s, there is a third option – converting the unused dates to biofuel.
In a move that is more economically rather than environmentally motivated, the Prime Minister’s office issued a cabinet statement on Sunday announcing that a United Arab Emirates based company has received the go ahead to make biofuel from the dates.
Farming and agriculture is Iraq’s leading industry, but decades of sanctions, isolation and war have resulted in a poorly functioning agricultural sector. This biofuel project, therefore, is seen as a new way to boost agricultural productivity.
How much date biofuel the UAE company will be able to produce is unknown, but any produced will initially be used domestically. If successful, it is expected that farmers will expand the date plantations, with any resultant biofuel being exported.
Image: Itinerant Tightwad