Fruit farm­ing in Swat

Enterprise - - Promotion -

Fruits of tem­per­ate cli­mates are pop­u­lar all over the world. In Pak­istan, ap­ples have been grown as com­mer­cial fruit in Balochis­tan and Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa for long. Be­cause of its at­trac­tive in­come, ap­ple plan­ta­tion was taken up by grow­ers in Swat, Dir, Mansehra, Parachinar, Chi­tral, Hunza, North and South Waziris­tan Agen­cies.

District Swat is the most im­por­tant of all the ap­ple pro­duc­ing districts of Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa. It cov­ers an area of ap­prox­i­mately 4000 square miles within the Malakand Divi­sion. This is mainly a river val­ley sur­rounded by moun­tains, which also have fer­tile val­leys feed­ing into the main Swat Plain.

Swat grows var­i­ous kinds of fruits though ap­ples and peaches are the ma­jor pro­duc­tion. The fruit trees were not al­ways in an in­te­grated po­si­tion in the district. They were scat­tered un­til the in­hab­i­tants of the area took in­ter­est in this as­pect of agri­cul­ture and brought vast tracts of soil un­der the plan­ta­tion of fruit trees. Farm­ers equipped them­selves with skills of hor­ti­cul­ture and learned to graft var­i­ous trees. Con­se­quently, we see the fa­mous or­chards present in Swat. The nat­u­ral calami­ties of re­cent years have had a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on these or­chards but their pro­duc­tion is re­tained with a steady re­cov­ery.

The or­chards of Swat are more or­ga­nized and more pro­duc­tive. Hor­ti­cul­ture started first in Matta Sub-divi­sion (Up­per Swat) on com­mer­cial scale; there­fore, this zone is very ad­vanced now. The main item of the or­chards is ap­ple, though other fruits like dam­son, grapes, pears, lo­quat, apri­cots, and prune etc. are also planted, but they are on small scales. These or­chards earn more money for the own­ers.

Some of the fa­mous or­chards in Up­per Swat are at Kooz Sher­palam, Bar Sher­palam, Matta, Jora, Shanguatai, Arkot, Bi­akan, and Ronyal. There are large and vast gar­dens in Jankikhel. The east­ern bank of Swat River is also cov­ered with gar­dens. Farm­ers have also cov­ered small ar­eas for gar­dens, yet they can­not be counted as or­chards. Farm­ers have in­creas­ingly for fruit gar­den­ing due to high in­come. This ten­dency has raised the com­pe­ti­tion among or­chard own­ers, so much so that it has a con­sid­er­able im­pact on food crops in the area.

The or­chards of Ba­boozee sub-divi­sion in Swat are multi-fruit gar­dens and thus dif­fer­ent from Matta. Orange, lo­quat, pear, dam­son, peach, apricot etc. have been planted here, but the chief item of these or­chards is orange. The largest fruit gar­dens are in Barikot. In Shangla Par, the wal­nut, mul­berry, pears, and grapes grow well, but due to the un­suit­able trans­port sys­tem, at­ten­tion has not been given to hor­ti­cul­ture in this area. There are cer­tain ar­eas like Buner which are not ex­ten­sively in­volved in hor­ti­cul­ture due to an ir­reg­u­lar sup­ply of water. How­ever, with the in­creas­ing in­tro­duc­tion of tube­wells the con­di­tion is chang­ing. Fur­ther, in Ko­his­tan-e-Swat, Utror is the chief pro­ducer of ap­ples.

The fruits from Swat are rec­og­nized for high qual­ity. The prod­uct is not only a source of in­come for the farm­ers and dealer, a hundreds of other peo­ple like lo­cal trans­porters, load­ers, pick­ers and pack­ers are di­rectly de­pen­dent on the or­chards of Swat.

In the cur­rent floods sce­nario, ac­cord­ing to District Of­fi­cer Agri­cul­ture (Ex­ten­sion), sev­eral cam­paigns have been or­ga­nized to re­move stand­ing water and sand from the or­chards to min­i­mize the loss af­ter floods. Along with giv­ing tech­ni­cal sup­port to NGOs work­ing in the area, the au­thor­i­ties are also or­ga­niz­ing pro­grammes for prun­ing, ca­pac­ity build­ing and spread­ing aware­ness among the lo­cals to pre­serve the sig­nif­i­cant as­set of or­chards. Other than the fi­nan­cial sup­port from the govern­ment of Pak­istan, the Ital­ian govern­ment is un­der way to pro­vide 400,000 saplings and young plants would be dis­trib­uted to the af­fected farm­ers.

A com­par­i­son of the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket with that of Pak­istan re­veals that there is great po­ten­tial for ex­port growth of fruit pro­vided some spe­cial con­ces­sions are al­lowed to this in­dus­try to flour­ish. The sur­round­ing ex­port po­ten­tial mar­kets for Pak­istani fruits are Bahrain, Bangladesh, Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Ara­bia, Sin­ga­pore and Hong Kong.

The Trade De­vel­op­ment Au­thor­ity of Pak­istan (TDAP) has been mak­ing con­certed ef­forts to pro­mote the ex­port of non-tra­di­tional items, with the ob­jec­tive to di­ver­si­fy­ing the coun­try’s exports. Ac­cord­ingly, the Bureau started or­ga­niz­ing an ap­ple show at Quetta in 1994. These shows have gen­er­ated great in­ter­est among the grow­ers and ex­porters of ap­ples. Var­i­ous va­ri­eties of ap­ples, grown in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa are dis­played in the shows namely; Top Red, Red Spur, Kala Kulu, Su­per Gold, Red Chief, Ap­ple Elite, Stark Crim­son, Ore­gon Spur, Red Rom Beauty, Royal Gala, Spar­tan and Dou­ble Red etc.

The TDAP is also en­gaged in ac­quaint­ing the farm­ers with the ex­port trends. For this the pur­pose TDAP or­ga­nizes sem­i­nars in Khy­ber Pakhtunkhwa to dis­sem­i­nate ba­sic in­for­ma­tion of modern con­cepts of in­ter­na­tional trade and lead busi­ness­men from or­chards to en­ter into the ex­port mar­ket

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