TAPPING FRUIT EXPORT POTENTIAL OF BALOCHISTAN

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER,
Aug 13 - 19, 2007

 

Nature has bestowed Balochistan with so many natural resources and its favorable climate and various plateau of land further enhanced its importance by producing dates, cherries, apricots, pomegranates, grapes and apples. The distinctive climatic conditions in the province provide a great diversity and variety for fruit production. Geographically, the province is highly suitable land for cultivation of fruit and growth of horticulture.

Balochistan is internationally known for its quality fruit production. The province produces millions of tones of fruits annually. It is the fruit garden of Pakistan contributing country's 90% production of grapes, cherry and almonds, 60% of peach, pomegranate, apricot and 34% of apple and 70% of dates. Gwadar port in Balochistan will revive trade links between China and Central Asian States extending cargo facilities to both sides. It will provide the nearest approach to the warm waters to both Central Asian states and Western China. The government has decided to declare Gwadar as Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The growers of fruit crops in Balochistan, particularly growers of dates in Mekran can benefit from SEZ facility.

Export of fruits is considered a big source of foreign exchange today. Thousands tonnes of apples are exported each year from Balochistan. Pakistan enjoys robust position in world apple market. It is worth mentioning that a very good quality apple are available in Pakistan, 80% of which are produced in Balochistan, but unfortunately no treatment plant for their preservation was established by the successive governments in the past. There is a need to realize and exploit tremendous potential and scope for expansion of export of apples. The positive steps to increase fruit export from Balochistan will increase the country's foreign exchange reserves.

Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) has moved for setting up separate dates processing and apple storage projects in Balochistan with a total cost of Rs.20.5 million. The plan for establishing treatment plants for preservation of fruits in Balochistan, mainly the apples and dates, for their export to foreign countries should have been materialized long time ago in the national interest but no steps in this direction were taken in the past.

The military administration of President General Musharraf had planned to send a group of traders from Balochistan to Qatar with the cooperation of Export Promotion Bureau to explore demand, marketing and other related affairs regarding export of fruits from Balochistan to Qatar. The decision was taken when two trading companies of Qatar recently showed interest in importing apple and other fruits from Balochistan to Qatar and other Gulf States.

(I) APPLES

The apples produced in Balochistan are popular all over the world for their peculiar taste, superb quality and a good variety. Balochistan's share is 34 per cent in national production of apples. The recent drought spell of 4 years brought destruction to apple orchards in the province.

Apples grown in Balochistan orchards have a major share in exports. Apples have great market in Middle East and other foreign countries for their delicious taste and peculiar varieties. Gulf States in particular provide good market to Balochistan apples. With little but serious efforts, the government can enhance export of apples creating new markets for this delicious fruit of Pakistan. 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.

About 0.3 million apples are annually produced in Balochistan. 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. "Apple show" has been very popular, among the growers, business community, various support servicing agencies and general masses of Pakistan. A large number of growers from Balochistan and NWFP participate in these shows. Exporters, importers and support service agencies from all over Pakistan also attend the event.

The government should make arrangements to organize apple shows in foreign countries for marketing of apples on the same pattern. Exporters, importers and support service agencies of the foreign country may be invited to the shows. The apple shows may be organized in the countries of Far East, Gulf and Europe. The sale-centers should be established in foreign countries. These units would have latest data on apple production and its varieties in Pakistan and would be linked to their head office in Islamabad through a computerized system for earlier demand and supply services all round the year. Such centers may be established in Riyadh, Dubai, Abu Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, Jakarta, Istanbul and Kuala Lumpur.

(II) DATES

Balochistan produces dates of 130 varieties. It contributes about 70 per cent to the national production of dates. Mekran provides about 4,25,000 tones of dates annually, but the province has no share in national export of dates. This could fetch a large foreign exchange for the country by exporting it to USA, Canada, Far East and other countries. There is a need to tap date export potential of the province. India is thought to be the biggest market for dry dates. Pakistan can easily capture the Indian market by exploiting fully the date potential of Balochistan.

Unfortunately, the dates produced in Mekran 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 earning from dates may considerably be increased. 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 Mekran increased a lot during the past five years when their entire crop for three consecutive years could not be sold for a variety of reasons. In 1998, Pakistan conducted its nuclear tests, and faced economic sanctions from the entire world as punishment. The multi-national companies also suspended buying dates from Mekran as part of greater economic sanctions. According to an estimate, half a million tons of dates in each year could bring nothing for the growers and went waste. The growers faced these losses.

Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) organized more than one date shows during the critical period and motivated the people to export dates or find some market for the unlimited date production from Mekran. This step taken by EPB certainly provided some relief to the poor growers. Similarly, the PIA recently announced that it would charge only Rs.5 per kg for lifting dates from Turbat and Panjgur to Karachi and Quetta enabling the growers to get a better price for their product. This was undoubtedly a welcome decision by the PIA management and was greatly hailed by the growers of dates in Mekran.

There is a need to realize and exploit tremendous potential and scope for expansion of export of dates from Mekran. 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 Mekran. Government must establish date processing plants in Mekran for expanding its export to the world date markets all round the year. 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.

(III) GRAPES

Grape is a low delta crop and may be grown in all types of climates and soils. The province is famous for its grape production of commercial varieties. The most popular commercial varieties grown in Balochistan include Sundrakhani, Haita and Kashmishi, which have great market and demand. The grapes are grown in bulk in Quetta, Pishin, Kalat, Zhob, Loralai and Mastung districts in Balochistan.

Though Balochistan contributes 70 percent of total grape production at national level, yet the grape growers in the province are faced with many problems. Shortage of irrigation water, 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, are the common problems baring long-term investment in grapes growing.

(IV) APRICOT & PLUM

Apricot and plum are high delta fruits, which are grown in upland Balochistan. The acute shortage of water during recent spell of drought played havoc with these fruits in the province. The government should take immediate steps to develop water resources of the province to maintain its status of the country's fruit basket.

Table: 1

AREA & PRODUCTION OF ALL FRUITS IN 2000-01

FRUITS

AREA IN HECTARES

PROD In TONNES

Almond

10621

30138

Apple

48329

318355

Apricot

10999

105172

Grapes

12240

48786

Peach

3945

16863

Plum

3872

23674

Pear

114

491

Pomegranate

4185

28536

Charry

968

1563

Pistachio

135

209

Dates

43099

241982

Mangos

2240

12255

Citrus

2389

13608

Banana

808

8072

Guava

1589

7519

Loquat

51

201

Papaya

752

13511

Chikoo

649

3864

Coconut

1154

7205

Fig

92

203

Other fruits

1495

7283

Total

149726

889490

Source: Agriculture statistics 2002

 


Table: 2

APPLE PRODUCTION IN BALOCHISTAN

AREA IN HECTARES

QTY IN 'TONES'

DIVISION

QUETTA

ZHOB

SIBI

KALAT

MEKRAN

TOTAL

1996-97

11292

13804

3939

5967

7

35009

Area Qty

161487

175638

62229

80815

0

480169

1997-98

11720

13929

3976

6272

7

35904

Area Qty

163478

175637

62316

81074

0

482541

1998-99

12105

14029

4010

6381

7

36532

Area Qty

163467

178245

62622

82945

0

487279

1999-00

12337

13906

4644

11432

7

41726

Area Qty

76475

100994

35813

60344

0

273632

2000-01

13932

17154

4504

12730

7

48329

Area Qty

84121

125334

39886

69005

0

318355

Source: EPB

 


Table: 3

APPLE EXPORT FIGURES

YEAR

QTY IN KG

VALUE IN '000' $

1996-1997

536

157

1997-1998

2120

429

1998-1999

5134

1213

1999-2000

4021

1280

2000-2001

1475

454

July 2001 May 2002

818

298

Source: EPB