Today dates continue to be a staple food of the desert in the Middle East. The UAE has increased production significantly by subsidizing the various things that go into the production of dates and date palms; by making low cost financing available; by requiring all farmers to plant more dates, in fact there are requirements that all farmers must have 200 date and to sell the product to specific markets; and also by encouraging policies that help market and price dates on the basis of varieties and grades.
Dates are graded according to the amount of moisture and sweetness. Dry dates ten to have moisture in the range of about 8-10%. Semidry dates have moisture content in the 11-16% range and soft dates have moisture content of 17-22%. Most of the dates in the UAE are of the soft type of dates. About 26 varieties are commercial varieties, but many more are grown in the UAE.
The date industry continues to be an important part of the economies of most Middle Eastern countries. Dates are also an integral part of culture and custom in the Middle East. The UAE has the highest per capita consumption of dates in the world. The date fruit can be stored for more than 2 years. Making it an important food in a world where our population is growing extremely fast. In the UAE the harvesting season starts in the summer and could go to about October. Farmers typically pick dates on a daily basis and sell them at wholesale markets. This contrasts with the harvest season in the Coachella Valley where the date festival is held in winter after the harvest which takes place in early fall. Many of the farmers growing dates also feed dates to their livestock. The date fruit bed to the livestock is at the tamar stage. This is in addition to other food fed to the live stock.
The period of highest demand for date fruit is the same worldwide it is during the month of Ramada, during the Eid Al-Fitr and at the end of the month of Al-Adha.