UAE government reviews red palm weevil threat

Council for Climate Change and Environment meets to assess efforts to eradicate the pest

Red palm weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus)
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The UAE Council for Climate Change and Environment has reviewed its efforts to eradicate a deadly pest wiping out date palms.

Officials including Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, met on Thursday to discuss progress on tackling the red palm weevil.

Spread from Asia in the 1980s, the killer insect infects trees from within and represents a major threat to the region’s vital date groves.

An international conference held in Abu Dhabi in March said it was critical Gulf states worked together to address the issue.

“The council reviewed the progress by the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, in its campaign initiated in 2018, to eradicate the red palm weevil by leveraging the latest technology, as well as treating the afflicted trees,” a statement from the government news agency Wam, said.

“The meeting also highlighted the risks of hawkers selling palm seedlings.

"These included the spread of red palm weevil, which causes enormous financial losses to the country and farmers, and the introduction of palm species of unknown origins and types that are then sold to farmers as high-quality palm trees for a hefty price.”

The threat to the region's date palms is stark. Close to 90 per cent of the world’s dates are grown in the Middle East and North Africa.

The deadly beetle has already wiped out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of date palms in the Mediterranean.

Precise figures are not known for how many palms have been affected in the UAE, but the country is among the world’s top date exporters.