Saudi Arabia is the second biggest dates producer globally after the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which is considered the world's number one date producer, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The Saudi government has provided soft, medium-term loans to farmers through the Saudi Arabian Agricultural Bank ( SAAB ) as part of efforts to ensure national food security, the agency said.
The loans are reportedly used to purchase equipment, pumps and irrigation systems, in addition to grants to buy similar items, the agency said.
The date industry is more than 49 years old. The first date-processing plant was established in Madinah, which entered into operation in 1964, with a production capacity of 3,000 tons per year, the agency said.
Two new date plants were set up in the subsequent 18 years, including one in Madinah in 1968, with a production capacity of 300 tons a year and the second in Al-Ahsa in 1982, with a 21,000-ton per year capacity, the agency said.
A total of 48 applications were approved for the establishment of new dates plants in a 17-year period between 1982 and 1999.
The number of date processing plants grew to 65 in 2009 and 145 in 2011, the agency said.
There are nearly 23.7 palm dates in the Kingdom and 400 types of dates spread in various parts of the Kingdom, the agency said.