Date Show 1999, organized by
EPB, stresses for loan facilities to date growers
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Sep 20 - 27, 1999
While the farmers generally look for timely rains to harvest a better
crop, it is a reverse case with the date growers. Since the rain damages the date crop,
the date growers always pray for dry weather.
During July and August, when the date palms are in full bloom, the date
growers, due to lack of scientific and technological facilities, use spiritual methods as
preventive measures to save crop from monsoon rains. "Taweez" hanging by date
trees is a common feature in date growing areas in Sindh and
Monsoon rains damage entire date crop. The damaged fruit is harmful for
human consumption. The annual production of dates in Pakistan is estimated at around
535,000 tonnes of which only 86,000 is exported, rest of them either consumed locally or
Zulfiqar Ali Khan, one of the judges at the date show, told PAGE that
Pakistan earns around $27 million per annum through date exports which does not reflect
the real export potential of this sector. The lack of processing and packaging facilities
matching to the international standards is another major reason for restricted exports.
The processing or packaging facilities, whatever they are, exist in urban centres
specially at Karachi. He suggested that since dates are perishable in nature, the
processing facilities should be provided at farms to tap the full potential of the crop.
There are more than 300 varieties of dates produced in Pakistan. Out of
these large number of varieties, Begam Jangi of Balochistan, Aseel of Sindh and Dhakki of
Dera Ismail Khan are the varieties which are much sought after the world over due to their
exotic taste. Due to lack of processing and packaging facilities these highly valuable
varieties do not fetch their real worth in the export market.
He was of the view that the government should take steps to safeguard
the interest of the poor growers by announcing support price of the commodity. He
disclosed that generally the growers hardly get Rs 5-10 per kg of dates against the price
of Rs30-40 per kg in the local market. The poverty ridden growers are forced to sell their
crop at a throw away price in the absence of an organized marketing network in the date
growing areas. Arrangements for field packing units can make big difference not only in
promotion of exports but a fair return to the hard labour of the farmers.
Syed Ghous Ali Shah, Advisor to Prime Minister on Sindh Affairs, while
speaking at the concluding session of a 3-day "Pakistan Dates Show 99",
organized by the Export Promotion Bureau, asked EPB to set up a research centre in date
growing areas of Sindh to help date growers to develop better varieties of date. There is
a need for permanent research arrangement to develop new varieties as well as chemicals
for protection of the date crop.
Ghous Ali Shah also suggested that technology for making syrup from the
damaged crop should also be evolved in Pakistan, as it is being practised in other date
producing countries. He also advised the
EPB to make loan arrangements for the date growers. Financially weak,
the date growers generally accept in advance a lumpsum price of the crop from the
middleman who offers a price of his choice.
Foreign buyers from Australia and Bangladesh visited the date show.
Some non-resident Pakistanis from the US also placed orders.