INCREASING EXPORTS OF FRUITS, WOOL, HIDES AND MILK FROM BALOCHISTAN
June 15 - 21, 2009
Export of fruits, wool, hides, and milk is considered a big source of foreign exchange today. By developing fruit farms and livestock in Balochistan, the country can increase its exports earnings from these sectors.
Balochistan is a pastoral economy. There is however no organized cattle farming activity in the province. The local livestock farmers even have no idea or familiarity with modern animal husbandry practices. Organized cattle farming on scientific patterns will improve the quality of livestock. It will increase the quantity of available cows, buffaloes, sheep and goats, and thus increasing the availability of hides and skins for leather industry. It will also improve the quality of hides and skins to fetch more value by upgradation.
The province is yet to exploit the real potential of its livestock sector, which contributes 20 per cent to the provincial GDP. It is the primary sustainable source of living for about 80 per cent of the population of Balochistan. The province contributes about 40 per cent of Pakistanis total livestock population. Policies should be framed and incentive package be announced by the provincial government to persuade the investors for organized cattle farming in Balochistan. The government should provide the required land and funds for the purpose.
Deficiency in technical know-how, lack of awareness about skillful slaughtering and defective flaying of skins and hides by the butchers, unhygienic and polluted water for drinking of animals and storage of skins and hides in open dirty places may be enumerated as the main causes of shortage and spoilage of animals/raw material for meat processing in the province. Government should export processed meat instead of live animals/raw material to foreign countries. Skins may be retained for domestic tanning industry.
Steps being taken toward white revolution in Balochistan include extensive use of artificial insemination, import of semen of high performance animals, use of biotechnology in livestock sector, controlling of diseases, quarantine measures, proper management and study of climate in arid and semi-arid regions, enhancing fodder production and its management and culling of local breeds with low performance, and exclusive amelioration of genetic characters in local breeds with high performance.
The provincial government should create an environment through announcement of attractive incentives for seeking foreign investment in livestock sector particularly dairy farming, as it would bring latest technology, modern methods of animal husbandry. An Investment Promotion Cell (IPC) may be established to bring the foreign capital for efficiently tapping the potential areas of dairy farming in the province. The government should provide land and facilities for setting up goat milk cheese processing units in order to motivate the private sector.
With four agro-ecological zones, Balochistan provides unique environment for the production of a great variety and high quality deciduous fruits. The province is known as fruit basket 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. A fully Operational Gwadar port in Balochistan can revive trade links between China and Central Asian States extending cargo facilities to both sides. It can provide the nearest approach to the warm waters to both Central Asian states and Western China. The country has already 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.
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.
As the province enjoys diversity of climates, hence it produces various fruit crops ranging from temperate to sub-tropical and tropical. While apple, apricot, cherry and peach are high delta fruits, the grape, olive, pistachio and pomegranate are low delta fruits grown in the province. While Mango is a tropical fruit, the date palm is sub-tropical fruit plant. The province produces dates of 130 varieties. According to one estimate, Mekran provides about 0.5 million tones of dates annually. Some of the famous varieties of date grown in Turbat and Panjgur districts include Begum Jangi, Kaharaba, Mozawati, Berni, Helini and Sabzo. The province produced 6,625 tons of mangoes during fiscal year 2003-04 contributing 0.6 percent to the total national production.
Fruit crops are grown over an area of 149726 hectares in the province and approximately 889490 tons of production is achieved annually. Apples, almonds, grapes, apricots, peaches, plums, and dates are grown over an area of 48329 hectares, 10621 hectares, 12240 hectares, 10999 hectares, 3945 hectares, 3872 hectares, and 43099 hectares, respectively. Fruit production in highland Balochistan, which contains southwestern region, depends on the availability of groundwater. The region is famous for grape production of commercial varieties such as Kishmishi and Shundokhani.
Pre-harvest contractors and commission agents largely benefit from the fruit production and the poor farmers continue to reel under the miserable socio-economic conditions.
The small farmers have no option but the pre-harvest sale of their orchards to contractors, as they have no cold-storage facilities to save their produce. Moreover, they are unable to bear the high costs of entire marketing operation for their fruit crops. Only a few farmers with sound financial position have direct contacts with the commission agents to market their produce.
Government should provide relief to the local growers of fruit crops by providing them essential infrastructure facilities like farm to market road, cold-storage houses, and regular and sustainable supply of electricity in order to enhance production and export of quality fruits. There is a dire need to overcome the scarcity of water through construction of check/delay action dams in suitable areas of the province. The micro-irrigation systems need to be introduced widely to cope with problem of water shortage in fruit growing areas of the province.
The government should extend rural credits to small farmers for horticulture development in the province The lack of finance does not enable the cash-starved small farmers to harvest and market their fruit crop and they have to sell their orchards to pre-harvest contractors, who exploit them taking advantage of their weak financial position. The small farmers' access to loan facility should be ensured.
Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) recently 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.