SCIENTIFIC NAME: Phoenix dactylifera
FAMILY: Arecaceae

A Carnarvon builder hopes to establish WA's first commercial date farm at Gascoyne Junction.

Nat Duca, 63, has imported more than 400 date palms from a plantation in California's Death Valley and plans to build numbers to 1500 in about three years. The palms arrived by ship in refrigerated containers and were transferred from Fremantle to Gascoyne Junction, about 160km east of Carnarvon, in refrigerated trucks. They were then quarantined for 15 months. The palms were planted in August, with 340 survivors now flourishing. They are irrigated from a bore in the Gascoyne River three kilometres away.

Mr Duca, who migrated from Italy in 1957, said he hoped his 100-hectare project on the edge of the Gascoyne Junction townsite would provide dates for sale in Australia and Europe. He expects the first dates to be picked in two to three years. He is uncertain how much the project will cost, but an associate estimated $1.5 million.

Mr Duca said he and farm manager, Dan Smith, were learning as they went, gathering information from reference books and telephoning the Death Valley plantation. They will use a vacuum cleaner to pollinate the plants, sucking in pollen from the male plants and blowing it over the females.

Mr Duca said he believed Gascoyne Junction's climate and soils would be ideal for date production and that the plantation would become an important local employer. Dates are now imported to WA from California and the Middle East. They sell for about $20 to $24 a kilogram.

Dr Brian Stynes, general manager of Agwest Development, the new Department of Agriculture marketing arm, said the venture broke new ground in WA and could show the way for more developments. "A technical assessment has shown it could be a crop with enormous potential for the WA outback," he said.

Michael Zekulich,
Quandong, Vol 19, No.1. First Quarter 1993

DATE: March 1993

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