KERBALA, Iraq - Iraq is to plant 70,000 date palms south of Baghdad, hoping to revive production of a crop it was famed for across the Middle East.
The country once produced three-quarters of the world's dates but now accounts for just 5 percent after it switched its economic focus to oil and after decades of conflict devastated its farms.
Backed by a state loan worth 10 billion dinars($8.43 million), a Shi'ite Muslim foundation has planted 16,000 date trees outside the holy city of Kerbala, some 90 kilometers (56 miles) south of the capital Baghdad. It is the biggest state-backed farming project for the crop since the US invasion toppling Saddam Hussein in 2003.
"We plan to have more than 70,000 date trees in future," said Faiz Eissa Abu Maali, the project's manager, during a tour.