Published: Thursday 15 February 1996

Dates are making a comeback in the international market. Gulf countries, till now solely reliant on oil exports, are seeking to diversify into agricultural industries through the use of modern horticultural and food -processing techniques. Omanis are taking renewed interest in dates, which is the largest agricultural product of the country. The agricultural ministry of Oman has I department of date research. It has hired international consultants to study methods for largescale plantation of datepalm trees.

Now, dates are being marketed in various forms like date syrup and 'date flakes'. A company has identified 92 uses for dates, including fudge, vinegar, spaghetti sauce, steak sauce, liquid and even a coffee substitute made from roasted date pits. Datepaln , thrive in Oman's coastal area and desert oases. Once the country's major exports, dates fell into neglect during the oil boom of the '70s and '80s.

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