Pakistan: Declining agriculture in Balochistan

Billions of rupees are being lost, collectively, by growers in Balochistan, due to rising input costs. This is leading to declining output - 50% according to one trader.

Spokesperson of the Falahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market, Shaikh Waqar Ahmed said the province's agriculture sector was in decline because of energy costs rising, leading many to abandon the sector altogether.

Balochistan has seen a rising trend of imports as domestic prices have risen on falling production. Apples, for example, are increasingly being sourced from Australia and New Zealand.

The problem is in the irrigation. the Water table is very low and growers must use tube wells to get it to the surface. This required diesel which is increasingly expensive.

Ahmed says that the government should intervent and provuide supoprt for the growers, saying that if the fruit and vegetables sector is assisted it can flourish, providing food not just domestically, but also for exports.

Director of Planning at Harvest Tradings, Azam Ishaque said that the area was fortunate in its environment, which was ideal for the cultivation of a wide variety of fruits.

"It has the capacity to generate around $500 million, subject to proper infrastructure and market access from Gwadar port," he claimed.

Balochistan is still Pakistan's second largest fruit and vegetable producing area and the largest when it comes to dates, onions and certain fruits, including apples, apricots, grapes and pomegranates.

Nearly one million tons of fruits are produced in the province annually, with 90 percent of grapes, cherries, almonds; 60 percent of peaches, pomegranates, apricots; 34 percent of apples, and around 403,584 tons of dates.

The Government, under the Trade Policy initiatives 2007/08, approved a special package for the development of Balochistan to improve the marketing and value-added processing of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The significant projects included one apple-grading plant at Quetta, two collection points, one each at Khuzdar and Loralai, and one date processing plant at Turbat.

Construction of 39 pack-houses and 20 cold storage areas has been approved to be set up in the main production and consumption centers, while the sea and airports were to give a due share to Balochistan.

However, as yet there has been no visible progress on the projects.

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