Overview of coconut in Oman

Oman, officially the Sultanate of Oman, is an Arab country in the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Holding a strategically important position at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, the nation is bordered by the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west, and Yemen to the southwest, and shares marine borders with Iran and Pakistan. The coast is formed by the Arabian Sea on the southeast and the Gulf of Oman on the northeast.

In the Golf region, coconut is almost exclusively grown and produced in the Sultanate of Oman, particularly in the costal plain of the Dhofar Governorate located in the extreme south-eastern of Oman, where climatic, soil and water condition are more favorable for coconut cultivation.The coconut cultivation covers about 463 hectares of which 75% is produced in agricultural holdings and the remaining as private and public gardens according to 2006 Oman Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Report. 

In Oman, the importance of the coconut palm is not only agricultural. Coconut became one of the main symbols of the Salalah city; this palm now plays a role in both tourist industry and urban landscaping.

Localisation of Dhofar region where  coconut palms are growing
It seems that coconut has become an economically important crop for Oman since recent past for its fresh nuts as a natural health drink, especially with the developments in the tourist industry in Oman. Therefore coconut is mainly harvested for drinking purposes while the other uses of coconut such as for oil, copra and culinary purposes in Oman is negligible. The harvest is sold locally for drinking purpose and some export to the Golf region, mainly to the United Arab Emirates, indicating a big potential for the coconut industry in Oman. Coconut farms are generally contracted to outsiders, mainly to people from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Dr. Roland Bourdeix and Dr. Lalith Perera wish to extend their gratitude to the Directors and Scientists of the Salalah Research Station, including Dr. Fabian, the Visiting Scientist from Benin for the excellent support, cooperation and friendship extended by them during their stay in Oman. They also wish to thank Oman Government and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for inviting them for this variety identification mission in Oman.


Omani researcher gets acclaim for work on coconut mite

Coconut mite attacks
The Salalah Agriculture Research Station achieved a distinct achievement by reaching over a major lead to contain coconut mite, one of the most destructive pests, recorded in Salalah in 1994-95. The lead is going to be helpful in containing Aceria gurreronis (coconut mite) not only in Salalah and Dhofar, but all the places globally where production of coconut is involved on a mass scale.

This achievement was revealed and recognised during an international conference in Malaysia where a researcher from Salalah Agriculture Research Station had gone to participate. The conference titled i-ENVEX 2015 was held in Kangar Perlis, Malaysia.
Shifa Manaa Rajab Bait Suwailam, who came out with positive results on the coconut mite, bagged Gold Prize for her work and surprised everyone with her talent in the conference as also her colleagues in the Sultanate’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

In an interview with the Observer, Shifa said her study was aimed at developing a new technique of mass production for H thompsonii, a fungus that fights coconut mites.

Explaining the technical aspect of her work, Shifa said: “There were three different methods used in this experiment at Salalah Agriculture Research Station. First method involved liquid mass production, while in the second method the media was prepared in a roux bottle. The third method was a combination of two previous methods...

To know more, see the paper on Oman Daily Observer by Kaushalendra Singh.


Salalah, the city fallen in love with its coconut palm...

Salalah is the second largest city in the Sultanate of Oman, and the largest city in the Dhofar Province. Salalah attracts lot of tourists from other parts of Oman and GCC during the Khareef season, which starts from July to September.The climate of the region and the monsoon allows the city to grow some vegetables and fruits like coconut.In the last 20 years, the coconut palm has become the symbol of Salalah city. This palm is presented in all the touristic documents of the city: for instance, the map of Salalah city is showing coconut palms in the beach and a bunch of fruits of the king coconut indicating that importance of the coconut palm in Oman is much more than agricultural. In environmental, cultural and tourism terms, coconut palm became an integral part of the identity of the Dhofar region. 

Although Coconut palms are ubiquitous in the landscape, more attention must be paid to cultural and ecotourism aspects. Coconut palms are currently confined to a role of creating an atmosphere, whereas they ought to be more effectively illustrating the specificity of the local culture.

In the future, planting of fast growing Tall-type coconuts for landscaping in the city should be avoided due to danger of falling of fruits and leaves, and even climbers from coconut palms, and the palms falling on the houses. In many Pacific countries, only dwarf coconut palms are now planted in the cities.

Coconut seller, street market in Salalah

Coconut seller, street market in Salalah

Camels under coconut palms: the climatic exception

The mountains in Dhofar are forming a kind of moon-shaped crescent which isolates the Salalah plain from the rest of the desert. The humid air coming from the sea elevates because of these mountains. It causes a higher rainfall than in other regions of Oman. Water coming down from the mountains generate a higher water table. Here can grow both coconut palms and date palms, and it is not rare to see camels walking under the coconut palms.

A very rare case of date palms and coconut palms growing near the sea in the same garden

The beach near this garden with both coconut and date palms

Coconut varieties available in Oman

Harvest of bunch on a Tall-type coconut
palm for fruit component analysis
The traditional Omani tall populations constitute the majority of the varieties in Oman. They seemed to be adapted to the harsh growing conditions. They are in danger because there is a risk for them to mix with the imported varieties, especially with the imported Dwarf x Tall hybrids, dwarfs and King Coconut by natural cross pollination. 

Imported varieties in Oman are as follows; 

  1. The Sri Lanka Yellow Dwarf (SLYD) from the Ambakelle seed garden in Sri Lanka. This population is quite heterogeneous, with some palms growing faster than normal dwarf with a bole formation at the base of the trunk. For reproduction/multiplication preferably those having real dwarf habit palms (short stature, slender stem with closely set up leaf scares, short and narrow fronds, short and narrow leaf lets, short bunch stalks etc.) should be chosen. Some of those dwarf palms in Oman produces big fruits, some small fruits, and it must be checked if this difference is due to genetic factors or due to environment effect. Those having very tall growing habit with big bole formation at the base may also be sampled and multiply for variety evaluation purpose. 
  2. Three different strains of variety King Coconut, with oval, pointed and elongated (bottle shape) fruits. These palms were identified as typical King Coconut, a semi tall coconut variety from Sri Lanka. Some of the coconut palms in Oman are looking like King Coconut but with a more pronounced dwarf habit. They could be the Pemba Red Dwarf from Tanzania. In the past many Omani lived in Zanzibar and they could have brought this dwarf a long time ago. 
  3. A red dwarf with oval fruits is also available. It looks like the Chowgat Orange Dwarf of India or the Sri Lanka Red Dwarf that are closely similar. 
  4. Two kinds of hybrids, the MAWA created in Côte d’Ivoire, imported from Malaysia and the CRIC65 (Sri Lanka Tall x Sri Lanka Green Dwarf and Sri Lanka Tall x Sri Lanka Yellow Dwarf) created in Sri Lanka which is locally named Kalim Bahim. These two hybrids are described in the book about coconut varieties by Roland Bourdeix. 

In addition to those varieties, tall coconut palms with yellow fruits can also be seen in farmers’ field in a very few numbers and they looks very much the Gon Thembili variety from Sri Lanka. These palms too should be sampled and planted in a variety evaluation trials. 

The imported hybrids produce very well, often 150 to 200 nuts per palm per year under good management condition with drip irrigation. So we think that the importation of these hybrids was a great success: it allows the concerned farmers to produce at least 50% more coconut fruits than by planting local Talls.

We surveyed 27 of the 30 sites selected for the population dynamic survey for mite populations. Within these sites, we successfully conducted varietal identification for about 85 % of the selected palms. We also identified most of the palms planted in the old experimental fields of the Salalah research station. This visual identification was completed by an analysis of DNA using molecular markers. This analysis should be conducted on at least 100 of the selected palms.

The details of the past coconut variety importation to Oman is given in table 1.

Varieties imported
Sri Lanka
1. Philippine Dwarfs (We identified them as Sri Lanka Green Dwarfs)
2. King Coconut
3. Dikiri Pol (We identified them as Sri Lanka Yellow Dwarf)
4. Kalim Bahim (We identified them as dwarf x tall hybrids)
Imported in very limited numbers and planted in a variety block in the Salalah Research Station
Mawa hybrid
Malaysia Yellow Dwarf
Identified within the research station in an experimental plot
March 1988
Sri Lanka
  1. King Coconut
  2. CRIC65 (Tall x Green Dwarf)
  3. CRIC65 (Tall x Yellow Dwarf)
King coconut and CRIC65 can be identified both in Salalah Research station and in Farmers’ field
September 1988
Sri Lanka
Green Dwarf
Yellow Dwarf
Could be seen in Salalah Research Station and in farmers’ field

The Coconut Research Station

King coconut in Oman

In Oman, three different strains of variety King Coconut, with oval, pointed and elongated (bottle shape) fruits were found. These palms were identified as typical King Coconut, a semi tall coconut variety from Sri Lanka. Some of the coconut palms in Oman are looking like King Coconut but with a more pronounced dwarf habit. They could be the Pemba Red Dwarf from Tanzania. In the past many Omani lived in Zanzibar and they could have brought this dwarf a long time ago.