Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Iraq's once-flourishing date palm groves have been decimated by war, unrest and the collapse of infrastructure under United Nations' sanctions, according to officials and farmers.

But the government's new program seeks to change all that. Indeed, Iraq's Agriculture Ministry is pursuing a policy of trying to restore what was once the world's leading date industry.

According to a May 28 press release from the Coalition Provisional Authority, the ministry has already established 18 date palm orchards in 13 provinces. In one year, the nurseries will provide enough offshoots for 2,800 hectares of trees.

Already, ministry officials say, their offices are inundated by would-be farmers asking about fertilizers, vaccinations, pesticides and other topics.

"We will bring Iraq back to first place in the planting of palms," said Hussein Abbas, who sits on the ministry's program committee.

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