MAKING BALOCHISTAN THE FOOD BASKET OF PAKISTAN

SYED FAZL-E-HAIDER
Sep 17 - 23, 2007

Balochistan is known as fruit basket of Pakistan. If the province's agrarian potential is tapped efficiently, it can emerge as food basket of Pakistan. There is no dearth of landmass, as Balochistan is the largest province with respect to area. It has vast potentials in farming sector for having simultaneously the coastal, tropical and temperate climates and the five ecological zones. It is strategically located in the food deficit region- Central Asian Republics, Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan.

Pakistan is faced with the challenge of producing more food and fiber. A marked improvement in agriculture of Balochistan can produce surplus food and other value added products for export. Agriculture is the mainstay of provincial economy, as over 75 per cent of the population in the province is rural. The crops contribute about 62 percent of gross farms income. This sector employs 67 percent of Balochistan's total work force.

At present, the province is not self-sufficient in food. A strategy for increasing the cultivated area and per unit production should be followed to tap efficiently the high agrarian potential of Balochistan. Government should encourage the small farmers by initiating an easy loaning policy for them to get bulldozers and tractors so that acute problem of land leveling and land development in remote areas of the province, could be resolved.

Balochistan is basically a pastoral economy. It depends upon pastures and rangelands supporting about 40 percent of the country's total livestock population. The rangelands constitute about 90 percent of the total area of the province and out of this 65 percent is good for grazing. The nomadic and transhumant livestock producers get 70 percent of feed for their livestock from pasture ranges in Balochistan.

The vastness of area, different geographical features and terrain in Balochistan enhances the need for modern agricultural machinery specially bulldozers, tractors, threshers etc. for leveling the land and making it for agricultural use. Agriculture in Balochistan needs to be organized on modern and scientific lines with a view to optimize the productivity of soils and improve the socio-economic conditions of small farmers.

CORPORATE FARMING

In the provincial budget 2005-06, Balochistan government had decided to offer state farms to private sector for corporate farming. According to the official sources, there are 35 agricultural research and extension services farms in the province. The modalities of the corporate farming are yet to be worked out. Corporate farming can tap efficiently the high agrarian potential of the province. What can make corporate farming a success in Balochistan is the availability of vast areas of cultivable waste land, its strong potential for expansion of agriculture base, low transportation cost and developed routes to Middle East, Iran, Afghanistan and CARs.

The natural merits give the province greater scope for corporate farming. Corporate farming encompasses not only the farm itself, but also the entire chain of agriculture-related business, including seed supply, agri-chemicals, food processing, machinery, storage, transport, distribution, marketing, advertising, and retail sales. It is aimed at vertically integrating all food production. Corporate farming presents consumers with an immense variety of food at relatively low cost by reducing the cost of raw food inputs, creating sophisticated long-distance distribution networks, producing processed convenience foods, and making food available year-round in stock.

Corporate farming can expand acreage of fruit orchards. This will not only make the province self-sufficient in food and agricultural production but also enable it to export its products, especially fruit and dairy farm products to the Gulf, Afghanistan and the Central Asian States. Balochistan government must work out criteria for selecting private parties so that interested parties could approach the government. It may offer an incentive package to private parties for corporate farming in the province.

Investments can be made in the following areas: reclamation of barren, desert and hilly land for agriculture purpose, farming of crops, fruits, vegetables, and flowers, development of irrigation facilities, water management, production of quality seeds, agri-produce storage facilities, marketing and export of agri-produce, farming processing and preservation of seafood, Livestock farming and breeding, sheep and goat farming, dairy farming, and the grading, processing, packaging, preservation of fruits, vegetables and flowers.

DIVERSIFICATION OF CROPPING PATTERN

Need is to change traditional cropping pattern in arid areas of Balochistan. The lack of financial resources, lack of marketing facilities and poor socio-economic conditions prevent the growers in Balochistan to carry out new experiments for diversification of cropping pattern in agriculture. Hence, they rely on their traditional cropping pattern. They cannot afford a little loss by switching over to non-traditional crops. The government should patronize the local growers in this regard. The palm cultivation in coastal areas of the province will save the valuable foreign exchange of the country.

The challenges of 21st century can only be met through a shift from traditional to a technology based farming system in the province. This would require the use of appropriate agricultural inputs in technologically feasible and economically profitable manner. In context of chemical technology, the fertilizers offer tremendous scope and assistance to enhance agriculture production. It is however, contended that the excessive use of fertilizers may be injurious to the soil fertility and hence farmers should practice caution in use of fertilizers. The steps and measures must be taken for construction of farm to market roads, establishment of Agro-based industries, provision of storage and processing facilities for agro products and farm mechanization to bring green revolution in the province.

TABLE: 1

COMPARISON OF LAND UTILIZATION

Area: (000) HECTARES

LAND UTILIZATION

2000-01

1990-91

%INCREASE/
DECREASE

Total cultivated Area

2066.7

1621.9

27.4

Current fallow

1235.8

924.5

33.7

Net sown

830.9

697.5

19.1

Total cropped Area

840.1

700.5

19.9

Total uncultivated Area

17298.4

16980.3

1.9

Cultureable waste

4837.9

4727.8

2.3

Forest

1125.9

1088

3.5

Not Available for cultivation

11334.6

11164.5

1.5

Source: Agriculture statistics 2002


TABLE: 2

RABI CROPS

CROPS

AREA IN HECTARES

PRODUCTION IN TONES

Wheat

324,365

614,207

Barley

20,831

24,285

Rape seed and mustard

39,412

24,781

Cumin

3,957

1,775

Gram

10,850

9,000

Mutter pulse

3,635

1,971

Masoor

2,237

1,417

Vegetables

7,229

101,777

Fodder

15,320

452,694

Canola

5,312

3,408

Sunflower

546

595

Safflower

12

8

Total Rabi crops

433,706

1,235,918

Source: Agriculture statistics 2002


TABLE: 3

KHARIF CROPS

CROPS

AREA IN HECTARES

PRODUCTION IN TONNES

Rice

142,864

412,081

Sorghum (Jowar)

19,202

17,320

Millet (Bajra)

622

390

Maize

2,535

2,500

Sesamum

908

540

Castor Seed

65

50

Moong

3,077

2,040

Mash

1,138

905

Moth

686

650

Fruits

149,726

889,490

Onion

20,099

371,152

Potato

4,104

59,570

Vegetables

11,229

78,389

Melons

9,675

104,440

Chilies

1,777

2,600

Fodder

13,844

458,067

Coriander

2,306

1,260

Garlic

559

4,271

Guar Seed

2,875

1,760

Tobacco

1,177

1,690

Sugarcane

636

32,200

Cotton

17,322

25,752

Total Kharif crops

406,426

2,467,117

Source: Agriculture statistics 2002


Table: 4
  Tractors per 1000 acres of cropped area Fertilizer consumption per 1000 acres 0f cropped area of (tonnes) Irrigated area per 1000 acres of cropped area

Awaran

4.46

.00

984.88

Barkhan

24.99

11.41

760.42

Bolan

5.38

3.81

718.43

Chagai

21.65

39.00

735.61

Derabugti

42.34

.00

1561.31

Gawadar

19.03

.00

881.57

Jafarabad

3.06

27.35

1172.04

Jhal Magsi

1.66

5.08

1057.54

Kalat

8.76

29.95

743.65

Kech(Turbat)

10.64

1.07

619.49

Kharan

71.97

13.14

1492.22

Khuzdar

2.97

44.41

984.88

Killa Abdullah

12.43

.00

1019.83

Killa Saifullah

34.63

3.26

1906.25

Kohlu

7.70

.00

803.77

Lesbela

13.74

71.61

624.19

Loralai

25.22

1.45

1172.60

Mastung

5.50

53.63

448.48

Musakhel Khail

23.40

.00

1162.20

Nasirabad

3.08

17.61

932.63

Panjgur

8.89

.00

969.59

Pishin

12.41

126.7

825.54

Quetta

16.63

1845.6

911.26

Sibi

14.41

66.08

1019.89

Zhob

16.63

17.53

624.88

Ziaret

85.97

5.92

559.33

Source: Social development in Pakistan 2001

Geographically, Balochistan is highly suitable land for growth of horticulture. The province produces millions of tones of fruits annually. That is why, Balochistan is considered as fruit basket of Pakistan. The distinctive climatic conditions in the province provide diversity and a great variety for fruit production. Nature has bestowed it 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.

Balochistan contributes country's 90% production of grapes, cherry and almonds, 60% of peach, pomegranate, apricot and 34% of apple and 70% of dates. The positive steps to increase fruit export from Balochistan will increase the country's foreign exchange reserves.

APPLES & DATES

Balochistan is known for its quality fruit production specially apples internationally. Thousands tones of apples are exported each year from the province. Its share is 34 per cent in national production of apples. About 0.3 million apples are annually produced in the province. Apples of Balochistan have great market in Middle East and other foreign countries for their delicious taste and peculiar varieties. 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

Export Promotion Bureau has been organizing Apple Shows at Quetta since 1994, as a permanent calendar activity in collaboration with department of agriculture, Government of Balochistan. From the inception, this 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.

There is a need to realize and exploit tremendous potential and scope for expansion of export of dates from Mekran. The government must make serious efforts to enhance export of dates creating new markets for dates of 130 varieties produced in Mekran.

The dates produced in Mekran 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 earning 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 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 Mekran 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 went waste. The growers faced these losses. 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.

It is worth mentioning that the 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 by EPB certainly provided some relief to the poor growers. Similarly, the PIA recently announced that it would charge only Rs. Five 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.

TREATMENT PLANTS FOR FRUIT PRESERVATION

The treatment plants serve the purpose of fruit preservation during off-season. Apple treatment plants are essential to efficiently tap the apple export potential of Pakistan and reaching the world apple markets all round the year. similarly, the government must establish date processing plants in Mekran for expanding its export to the world date markets all round the year. The country will earn huge foreign exchange if these plants are established at different districts in coastal Balochistan.

The plan for establishing treatment plants for preservation of horticulture 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. 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. Under military administration, the Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) was reportedly directed by the Federal Minister for Industries and production for setting up separate dates processing and apple storage projects in Balochistan with a total cost of Rs.20.5 million.

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

TEN YEARS COMPARISON VALUE OF FRUITS

Value in million Rupees

FRUITS

1990-91

2000-01

Almond

350.69

2471.32

Apple

1365.3

6056.7

Apricot

387.78

1952.73

Cherry

33.5

149.74

Citrus

14.01

177.29

Dates

703.6

2318.91

Fig

0.75

19.03

Grapes

318.4

1001.97

Guava

8

108.05

Loquat

1.65

3.47

Mangos

48

245.3

Peach

115.43

10.63

Pear

7.44

10.63

Pistachio

15.13

27.17

Plum

114.54

289.72

Pomegranate

174.66

858.22

Papaya

10.1

235.36

Chikoo

9.24

77.28

Others

40.2

451.2

Total

3718.4

16819.82

Source: Agriculture statistics 2002