Date yields are up by 20% in Israel's Arava desert with the date season set to continue until mid-October.
Israel's Arava region stretches midway between the Dead Sea (the lowest place on earth) and the city of Eilat, on the tip of the Red Sea.
The yield from this year’s date crop in the Arava is expected to reach 7,500 tons – an increase of 20% over last year’s harvest.
According to Boaz Horowitz, Chairman of the Arava's Research and Development, yields in the central and northern part of the Arava are likely to yield some 7,500 tons of dates, which include approximately 800 tons of organic dates.
Horowitz said, "The area where the date palms are grown in the Arava, totals about 11,500 dunam (2,842 acres), with each dunam expected to yield approximately 1.2 tons, and each tree some 100 kilos of dates."
Amazingly, he said, "the high yields have been accompanied by a 20% reduction in water consumption" after a nine year Ministry of Agriculture study to find out optimum water supply needed to maintain date crops.
The Arava makes up a third of the area designated for growing dates in Israel. The fruit is also grown at the north of the Dead Sea and around the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).The Arava area is considered to have the best conditions, with the highest temperatures and ideal soil structure. It is also one of the best locations globally to produce Medjool dates, prized for their large size, sweet taste and juicy flesh - even when dried.
This year's annual crop is expected to reach around 34,000 tons, including 23,000 tons of Medjool dates alone worth over $US 400 million.
A large proportion of this years yield will be sold in Israel, however, there is also a growing export market. This year, 72% of Israel's date exports are headed to Europe, with the remaining 28% to the U.S. and Far East. Exports are worth around $90 million.
In China there is a growing market for dates as the fruit is considered to have excellent medicinal qualities.
Dates are numbered in the Torah as one of of the seven special crops of the land of Israel, along with olives, pomegranates, grapes, figs, wheat and barley.