The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with an estimated 25 million date palms (Phoenix dactylifera L.) produces nearly a million tones of dates annually accounting for about 15% of the global date production. Our study on the economic feasibility of date palm cultivation in the Al-Hassa oasis of the Kingdom estimated the average annual yield of dates per palm to be 48.0 kg per palm with a selling price estimated at SR 4.00 per kg. The net income from date palm cultivation in the oasis was found to be SR 5800.00 / ha (SR 38.67 / palm). Significant number of farmers (23.00%) sell their produce in the farm itself, of which 57% is to known customers indicating sizeable “farmer-consumer” loyalty. Date palm farmers of Al-Hassa were also found to be quality conscious, and they adopt diverse measures (pre to post harvest) to ensure quality production of dates. SWOT analysis indicated spiritual attachment to the land by the farmers as a strength of the system, however; bureaucratic hurdles to obtain subsidies and lack of exploitation of facilities by traditional farmers, is a major threat to date farming in the oasis. There also exists a good possibility to develop logistics that support marketing of dates, especially through agricultural cooperatives, besides further enhancing exploitation of state subsidies for date palm cultivation.
Key words: Date palm cultivation, economic feasibility, marketing, SWOT analysis, Saudi Arabia.
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