As the strawberry season winds up with vendors replacing the bright red fruit on their pushcarts with various summer specials, the farmers of Swat are content with how their produce fared this spring.
Residents of the scenic valley generate most of their income from tourism and agriculture, with hundreds of orchards that grow the country’s best fruits – from apples to peaches. Even though the 2009 military operation and the subsequent year’s devastating floods hit the district’s economy really hard, growers are slowly picking up the pace.
The climate of the district is suitable for strawberries – the succulent spring delight. A local researcher, Dr Muhammad Abdur Rauf told The Express Tribune the production of strawberries in the region began in 1980 on a test basis and was locally called Zamini Thot (ground mulberry).
Terming the fruit’s production an extremely profitable venture, Rauf said, “This is a new fruit and presently its cultivation and marketing is not very popular across the country.”
He informed that strawberries are presently cultivated in the northern areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. “Due to changes in weather patterns, it is now also produced in some parts of Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh as well,” he added.
Rauf said Swat’s nurseries also supply the strawberry plants to other parts of the country, adding the fruit arrives late in the markets of Malakand Division as compared to the province’s plain areas.
The yield, he said, is first sold to local hotels frequented by tourists in the spring season when the snow-capped mountains thaw and the cold weather begins to subside.
However, the sensitive nature of strawberries requires an overhaul of the fruit’s transportation and marketing, the doctor stressed.
He said that 11 kinds of strawberry plants were initially brought from abroad and after testing them locally, the Chandler, Crona and Tifs were found best suited for sale.
Azeem Bacha, a strawberry business owner from Takhtaband, Mingora, said farmers of the district prepare 60 to 70 million plants for supplying it to the other cities of the country.
“This is a profitable business now, with farm owners earning between Rs120 million to Rs130 million annually,” he said, explaining that Swat’s cool temperatures were best for the fruit’s quality production.
Bacha said more than 10,000 tonnes of the fruit are exported by the country every year.
Dr Khalil, another researcher associated with studying strawberries at the Takhtaband Research Centre, said the district’s favourable weather conditions were best suited for strawberries, however, heavy downpours and the winter fog can damage the harvest.
“Any kind of arable land, with the right weather conditions, is good for this fruit,” Khalil said, adding the fruit needs to be plucked around dawn and kept in a cool place to protect it from rotting.
This is why farmers work in haste during the harvest as any unnecessary delay can ruin the entire stock.
Khalil said strawberry season in Swat continues from April till June, with the valley’s annual production topping 1,000 tonnes, adding the district is the lead supplier of the fruit all over the country.
The fruit mostly ripens in March in the plain areas while April and May is the best time to harvest it in the mountainous region if the weather is not inclement, he informed.
Compared to other fruits, strawberries are affordable in the valley with per kilogramme price ranging from Rs70 to Rs100, however, the same amount of fruit is two to three times expensive in other parts of the country.
A fruit shop owner in Peshawar, Nek Mohammad, said he got his supply of strawberries from the Mardan fruit market this season but the best produce definitely comes from Swat.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2014.
Mango output this year may cross 1.8 million tonnes after remaining below this mark for last two years, growers and officials of provincial agriculture departments say. Officials of the Pakistani Trade Development Authority project that exports should rise to 160,000 tonnes, from 140,000 tonnes last year.
Their optimism springs up from increased demand in the Europe and the Middle East, recent opening up of Australian market and hopes for reaching out to South Asia and New Zealand. Officials of Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company say an investment of about Rs1bn made by the private sector in mango processing facilities over the last two years will give export a real boost.
They say Punjab is expected to produce 1.4 million tonnes of mangoes and Sindh 4.1 million tonnes while a few thousand tonnes should also come from KP, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Balochistan.
In recent years, a couple of fruit export companies have initiated joint ventures with mango and kinnow growers to ensure constant supply of quality fruits at the peak of the season. “Unlike ‘investor-grower’ duo it’s more formal and reduces the role of middlemen, who themselves are investors or find ones on behalf of growers,” says an official of PHDEC. “Now to take this one step further, PHDEC (that comes under the Ministry of Commerce) has signed a joint venture with Durrani Associates, a fruit export company, to give a boost to exports in a big way.”
It is through this joint venture that a deal was finalised, late last year, to export 15,000 tonnes of mangoes to Australia. Those involved in this deal say that they hope to begin mango exports to New Zealand and South Africa as well this year. A dozen fruit exporters plan to export more mangoes to European countries after getting clues in Fruit Logistica held in Berlin in February about increasing demand for Pakistani mangoes.
“Recent investment of a billion rupees in mango processing technology has also been crucial in helping exporters to diversify export destinations,” says an official of PHDEC which partnered progress in some of these projects. The most recent example is import of a mango processing plant worth Rs200 million which has raised the number of such plants to three, owned by just one single company.
Part of the estimated Rs1 billion-investment in technology has been made by food companies involved in production of branded mango juices. These companies not only sell one-litre juice packets in the local market but also export them mainly to Afghanistan and the Middle Eastern countries.
The USAID says it has spent $25 million to improve mango economics. It is working with SMEs to help control mango-diseases and set up additional cold storages and hygienic packaging facilities. It has also provided technical assistance for developing market linkages, capacity building and acquisition of international certificates required for exports.
Published on: 04/14/2014
During a visit of Muzaffargarh district for inaugural ceremony of Turk colony and Tayyip Erdogan modern hospital on Sunday, CM Punjab Mr. Shahbaz Sharif took aerial view of erosion affected areas in the district.
He also announced Rs 440 million for making of spurs to save people's properties from erosion. The chief minister informed people that steps were being taken to stop the erosion.
He further stated that he had instructed irrigation department to present report to him about the steps.
Shahbaz Sharif said that he would not tolerate any sort of corruption in uplift projects as government was committed to root out corruption.
Earlier, MPA Hammad Nawaz Tippu briefed CM Punjab about the losses of riverine erosion.
Published on: 04/13/14
Fruit exports (22.82%) and vegetable exports (10.90%) registered positive growth during the first eight months of the current financial year compared to the same period of last year.
During the period from July-February, 2013-14, about 505,342 metric tons of fresh fruit worth US$ 338.242 million exported as compared to exports of 524,313 million tons costing US$ 275.405 million of the corresponding period of last financial year.
According to the data of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, about 399,535 metric tons of different varieties of vegetables, valuing US$ 138.998 million exported during the period under review which stood at 413,266 metric tons worth US$ 125.334 million in the same period of last year.
Meanwhile, the data revealed that exports of leguminous vegetables, increased by 34.87 percent and reached 3,278 metric tons valuing US$ 2.82 million which was recorded at 1,893 metric tons costing US$ 1.52 million during the same period last year.
Publiished on: 3/26/2014
A three-year multi-pronged ‘Vegetable Enhancement’ plan costing Rs. 410.87 has been evolved by Punjab Agriculture Department of Pakistan. APP reoprted that the proposed plan would be carried out in 18 districts of the province including Sialkot. The basic concept of the programme is to enhance the year round supply of essential vegetables on sustainable and affordable prices by promoting vegetable cultivation, reduction in post harvest losses and value addition for making the province self-reliant in vegetables. The increased produce of vegetables will not only help meet the demand on one hand but also fetch shares in foreign exchange earning on other hand.
Under the plan, special attention will be focused on tomato, onion, potato and chilli crops for overcoming the shortage. Under the plan, small processing units for value addition would also be established in main growing vegetable districts especially for preparation of paste, slice, jam, pickles, powder and dehydration of vegetables for its optimum use in the shortage period on a cost sharing basis.
Through proper transportation of vegetable produce a reasonable reduction in post harvest losses could be obtained. In order to lessen the losses a ‘Plastic Bucket Bank’ will be set up in project districts on 80-20 per cent (government-growers-retailer) cost sharing for safe transportation of vegetables from farm to markets and retailer outlets.
The aim of setting up a “Plastic Bucket Bank” was to issue the buckets on cycle mode under which a farmer and retailer will take 10 buckets for safe transportation from farm to market.
Under the plan, small processing units will also be provided to vegetable growers and businessmen in project districts on a 50 per cent cost sharing basis through balloting in a transparent way. Ten tomato paste and pulping units and 10 small processing units for onion, garlic and chilli paste preparation will be provided to the top ten producing districts of the project, sources added.
Published on: 3/17/2014
Punjab Government is fast finalising the package in which to give incentives to the small growers of vegetables to encourage them to the cultivation of these essential items so that they are available to the public at cheaper rates in the market.
Provincial Food Minister and Chairman Punjab Price Control Cabinet Committee Bilal Yasin while presiding over a meeting here Tuesday expressed satisfaction in the ‘strenuous efforts’ of the Punjab government that have born fruits as the prices of essential items have been reduced to a large extent and they are duly available to the citizens at affordable rates. The Minister said that essential items are being sold at rates fixed by the government at Sahulat bazaar and the regular bazaars throughout the province. He said the work on formulating a policy to provide special packages to small farmers is being completed expeditiously to incentivise them in increasing fruit and vegetable productivity. Provincial Minister for Industries Ch Shafique, Minister for Agriculture Dr Farrukh Javed and other relevant officers of the department were present in the meeting.
The Minister told the meeting that strict action is being taken against those selling water-filled meat and milk, while kits are being provided to the laboratories to check adulteration in edibles. He said a great deal of reduction has been registered in retail and shop prices.
Published on: 1/16/2014
A Mushroom Festival is getting organised at Qadir Bakhsh Nursery Farms Faisalabad on Sunday (19 Jan 2014). Chief organizer of the event Mr. Tariq Tanveer (Famous kitchen gardener and Horti-preneur of the country) told Hortist that it is aimed to create awareness among general public about Health/Food, cultivation and business aspects of Mushrooms. So it's going to be a great opportunity for the attendees to gain & share practical knowledge about mushroom farming, marketing and its culinary & medicinal uses.
As a media partener of this fabulous event, Hortist invites you to attend this "National Mushroom Festival." A large number of horticulture professionals and field experts are expected to attend this festival, so we guarantee you are going to have a great day with a lot of practical knowledge, exposure, experience and aquaintance with relevant field personnels/community (Professors, Horticulturists, progressive farmers/Green-preneurs, kitchen gardeners, Doctors, students, Media etc.) while having a lot of fun in the Green environment of QB Farms.
One more thing to inform is that everything is gonna be practical, nothing theoretical in this event.
A jirga on Monday banned all types of hunting in Kohi Barmol in a bid to protect the wildlife and natural beauty of the mountain range which is located in Katlang tehsil of Mardan district.
It announced an end to its 15-year-old agreement with the wildlife department regarding hunting.
The decision was made during an emergency meeting of the area’s elders, presided over by jirga chief Nazir Bacha.
While addressing participants, Bacha said Wildlife District Director Ayaz Khan was issuing hunting permits to VIPs without the jirga’s permission. He added this was leading to a scarcity of birds, deer, and destroying the area’s natural habitat in the process.
Bacha claimed they had struck an agreement with the department 15 years ago under which wildlife department officials were to issue hunting permits with the jirga’s consent. He alleged they had been violating the agreement.
Under the agreement, the department was supposed to give 75% of revenue to the local jirga but had not done so for the past four years, added the chief.
“It is the wildlife department’s duty to protect the region’s environment and wildlife but it was doing the opposite by handing out hunting permits.”
Source: Express tribune
Published on: 01/14/2014
By Muhammad Fahim Abbas
Tomatoes are essential for all type of cooking and their price is often fluctuating. It is possible to preserve tomatoes by freezing when their price is low. Frozen tomatoes are equally effective for cooking of different foods such as soups, sauces, stews etc. as they become mushy when they are thawed. Making canned tomato paste is something easy to do and will make your tomato dishes taste so much better. Home canned tomato paste has been a tradition for many generations. So the preservation of tomatoes by this method can be done in following ways.
By Adnan Arshad and Muhammad Fahim Abbas
Cotton Gossypium (Family: Malvaceae) is one of the most important commercially grown crops in Pakistan and contributes enormously into the economy of Pakistan. Cotton all over the world harbors a wide variety of insects, pests and diseases. However, most of the damage is caused by insects. Due to sowing of unapproved BT Cotton varieties in Pakistan, mostly in Punjab, some insects (like Dusky cotton bug, Mealy bug) that were thought of secondary importance few years ago, now have become a potential threat of primary importance to cotton crop of Pakistan.