Chitral — the potential hub of temperate fruits

Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB) was established in August 2002 as an autonomous body under the ministry of commerce to vitalise the horticulture sector including interventions at the whole value supply chain in order to increase exports.

In order to create substantial impact on exports of horticulture products, it became imperative to have product diversification, looking at other products which have the export capacity and potential on medium- term basis. Utilising the secondary data, it was found that there is an ample potential for some of the temperate fruits of NWFP and Balochistan which could be tapped but required appropriate strategy and interventions to overcome hurdles which impede their exports.

The short-term strategic goal was to promote those horticulture products which had the best potential for enhancing exports immediately which were selected on the basis of V3 strategy (volume, variety and value). The prominent fruits and vegetables were mango, kinno, dates, potatoes and onions mainly grown in Punjab and Sindh.

Chitral district is the northern most part of NWFP consisting of mountainous terrains connected with other areas through “Lawari Pass” which is closed from December to April to all kinds of road transportation due to heavy snowfall. The cultivated land is mostly on slopes and valleys scattered in distant areas linked with poor road infrastructure. Farmers have limited farm holdings and hence reliance on food such as cereals and fodder crops for animal remains high.

The primary crops grown in this region are maize, wheat, rice and potato. There are few commercial orchards but most of fruits are grown in homes. The major fruits grown in this area are apple, pear, apricot, walnut, mulberry, pomegranate and persimmon. By and large, the crops are grown mostly for self-consumption and on commercial scale mainly for local market. Their pear variety ‘shagore” has good potential for export.

The benefit of Chitral district is that it has an ecological niche for some agriculture products that have high value in down country markets. Secondly, the products are grown when not grown in the down country, in other words we can say “off-season” production which fetches high prices in the local market. Due to minimal or no use of synthetic chemicals, the area can be exploited for organic niche market.

Various government and donor aided programmes have been undertaken for the development of fruits and vegetables in the region. Much of the impact has come through the donor assisted programmes which has changed the agricultural landscape of Chitral district. Besides pre-harvest interventions, massive infrastructure projects have been undertaken such as provision of water courses and electricity through micro hydel power to almost all villages. Many programmes undertaken in the adjoining areas of Chitral had provided rippling effect to this region also; projects such as Kalam Integrated Development Project, Malakand Fruit & Vegetable Development Project, Dir District Development Project and Dir Area Support Project.

But the major intervention has been provided by Agha Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) during a period of six years from 1999 to 2004 sponsored by SDC-IC and implemented by AKRSP. The main components of their programme included fruit nursery promotion for supply of quality/disease free plants, establishment of model orchards on scientific lines, introduction of IPM, provision of new plant varieties and establishment of farmers field school (FFS).

According to the local stakeholders, the government support has had minimal impact. While agriculture department has its presence in the area by providing expertise and established R&D institutes and stations, it could not provide the level of support as per the expectations of the farmers/growers.

Irrespective of all kinds of donors and government interventions, there are still crop production limitations mainly due to the following reasons: Poor land utilisation for plantation not commercially orientated plantation – low yields; lack of knowledge regarding pollinators, use of proper root-stock & scion plants affected by diseases and no integrated approach such as IPM ; no idea of soil analysis for utilization of proper and balanced fertiliser ; Non-availability and lack of knowledge with regard to the use of improved seed varieties and lack of storage infrastructure.

In order to achieve the targets of $500 million set for 2012, PHDEB cannot confine to a few products such as mango, kinno and dates. There is a need for product diversification incorporating other potential fruits and vegetables. Some of the temperate fruits of this area which have export potential and are likely to fetch premium prices are oranges, pears and apples.

It is suggested that in order to have a sustainable programme there is a need to establish a task force based in Peshawar having representatives from different districts of NWFP including Chitral, Dir & Swat. The force should meet on regular basis and have the following mandate: to develop overall and area/product specific strategies/action plans; to utilise PHDEB’s local human resource for planning and implementation of projects and programmes; to coordinate with provincial government for necessary support; to work in close collaboration with existing development institutions both public and private sectors; to solicit financial support from donors and other institutions to implement projects.

A two pronged strategy should be undertaken i.e. short and long term strategy. The short- term strategy will focus on support to marketing efforts for existing fruits which has potential for exports such as apples, pear, persimmon and apricot from Chitral; oranges from Dir and other areas of NWFP; apples, peach and loquat from Swat, etc.

The first step would be to create linkages between farmers and exporters. This would require training of farmers in quality production, timely harvesting, and standardised packaging (normally provided by the exporter/buyer). If needed, PHDEB would support in marketing overseas by organising test marketing in potential overseas markets.

The long- term strategy will focus on ‘grow for export’ approach and will entail the following:

• reorient production according to export market requirements and encourage contract growing which includes new varieties, nurseries, model farms, adoption of GAP, etc.

• develop necessary infrastructure such as cold storages, pack houses (grading plants), value addition industry, etc; and also complete the Batkhela Collection Point project.

• improve support services efficiency which would include better logistics, storage, packaging, etc through private sector initiatives.

• institute regular training programmes for all the stakeholders especially farmers regarding GAP using FFS mode.

The writer is the CEO, PHDEB.

Courtesy The Dawn

Muhammad Ramzan Rafique
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique

I am from a small town Chichawatni, Sahiwal, Punjab , Pakistan, studied from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, on my mission to explore world I am in Denmark these days..

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