Pakistan is the sixth largest producer of dates and the third largest exporter of the same in the world. According to one estimate, the country annually produces around 600,000 tonnes of dates out of which only 100,000 tonnes are exported and the rest are either consumed locally or go perish. The exports of dates could be raised to $200 million from the current $30 million with proper processing and packaging work, which is sadly still lacking in the country.
The country produces 300 varieties of dates and can earn more millions of dollars if proper attention is paid to value addition such as the use of dates in preparing date sweets, jams, chocolates and other products. Even the damaged crop is used for medical purposes and date oil is fit for use in cosmetics.
Known as Pakistan’s fruit basket, Balochistan contributes 34 percent of national production of apple and 70 percent of dates. Nature has bestowed the province with so many natural resources and its favorable climate and various plateau of land further enhanced its importance by producing dates, cherries, apricot, pomegranate, grapes and apples. The strategically located province offers access to new resources and markets and the prospect of more rapid growth. The province’s geo-strategic location makes it the most attractive for transit traffic to the landlocked Central Asian Republics (CARs), while the under-developing Gwadar port would provide Afghanistan and the CARs the shortest and fastest access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. The port can also provide them with warehousing facilities along with transit and possibilities of import of goods. The province offers the investors lucrative opportunities to invest in fruit farms.
Fruit crops are grown in the northern parts of the province. Its huge yield potential of high quality deciduous fruits can efficiently be tapped by making investments in establishing ‘crop specific zone’ and ‘fruit processing units’ in the province. The key problems baring long-term investment in fruit production include shortage of irrigation water, non-availability of groundwater in highland, lack of marketing infrastructure and facilities like farm-to-market roads and sale centers, dearth of skilled labor and lack of technical knowledge and expertise. Investments can be made in building cold storage houses and air-conditioned transportation facilities to minimize the risks to spoilage of fruits.
DATES PRODUCTION AND EXPORT
Begam Jangi is the top date variety of Balochistan, which has great demand all over the world due to its exotic taste. Despite having huge date export potential, the province lacks storage facilities. Moreover, lack of awareness about best farming practices, improper fruit handling techniques, and an absence of developed processing facilities are major constraints inhibiting profitable date production particularly in Balochistan and generally in Pakistan.
The date production of 130 varieties in Makran may earn a large foreign exchange for the country by exporting it to USA, Canada, Far East and other countries. Makran provides about 4,25,000 tonnes of dates annually, but the province has no share in national export of dates.
The dates produced in Makran unfortunately become the fodder of animals all round the year. If infrastructure is built to carry this fruit to the market and for exporting it to foreign states, Pakistan’s export earnings from dates may considerably be increased. There is a need to tap date export potential fully and rationally. India is thought to be the biggest market for dry dates. Pakistan can easily capture the Indian market by exploiting fully the date export potential of Balochistan.
The growers of dates have faced a serious sale crisis and suffered a huge loss in recent time. The problems and sufferings of the date growers of Makran increased a lot during the past three years when their entire crop for three consecutive years could not be sold for a variety of reasons. According to an estimate, half a million tons of dates in each year could bring nothing for the growers and go waste. The growers faced these losses.
There is a need to realize and exploit tremendous potential and scope for expansion of export of dates from Makran. The positive steps to increase fruit export from Balochistan will increase the country’s foreign exchange reserves. The government must make serious efforts to enhance export of dates creating new markets for dates of 130 varieties produced in Makran. Government must establish date processing plants in Makran for expanding its export to the world date markets all round the year.
APPLE PRODUCTION AND EXPORT
The most famous apples produced in Pakistan are Kala kulu, Mashadi, Amri, Golden Delicious, Katja, Red delicious, Royal Gala, Kashmiri, Skyspur, & Summer Red etc. The season for different varieties of apple in Pakistan starts from the first week of July and ends in mid of November every year. About 70% of it is picked from Balochistan from total products. About 0.3 million apples are annually produced in Balochistan. The recent drought spell of 4 years brought destruction to apple orchards in the province. Apples of Balochistan have great market in Middle East and other foreign countries for their delicious taste and peculiar varieties.
Apples grown in Balochistan orchards have a major share in exports. With little but serious efforts, the government can enhance export of apples creating new markets for this delicious fruit of Pakistan.
The apples produced in Balochistan are popular all over the world for their peculiar taste, superb quality and a good variety. Gulf States in particular provide good market to Balochistan apples.
Serious efforts should be made to tap apple export potential and other fruits of the province to foreign States. The major importing countries of Pakistani Apples include Dubai, Hong Kong, India, Brunei, Bahrain, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Burma and Japan.
Apple treatment plants are essential to efficiently tap the apple export potential of Pakistan and reaching the world apple markets all round the year.
Export Promotion Bureau Quetta has been organizing Apple Shows at Quetta since 1994, as a permanent calendar activity in collaboration with Department of Agriculture, Government of Balochistan.
– There is a need to introduce high yielding, and drought and disease resistance varieties of fruits. The positive steps to increase fruit production and export from the province will increase the country’s foreign exchange reserves. The treatment plants serve the purpose of fruit preservation during off-season. The country will earn huge foreign exchange if these plants are established at different districts in coastal Balochistan.
– What is direly needed is to enable the farmers to sell their produce directly eliminating the role of middlemen in the marketing channel. Like wheat crop the government may fix a support price for the fruit crops setting a procurement target for the ex-harvest year and the government agencies should directly purchase the produce from the farmers at the fixed price.
– The government should also provide cold-storage facilities at district/tehsil level. Presently, these facilities are only available in Lahore, Karachi, Multan and other big cities of Pakistan and the small farmers are unable to bear the transportation charges. The government should also provide essential infrastructure facilities like farm to market road, regular and sustainable supply of electricity in order to enhance production and export of quality fruits.
– Treatment plants are essential for preservation of fruits in Balochistan, mainly the apples and dates. The provincial government and community-based organizations should play their role in eliminating the social and political barriers to attract investment from private sector in the province. They should open-handedly welcome the investment from private parties based in other provinces.