Farmers of erstwhile FATA need attention to enhance fruit production



The fruits of merged districts of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are famous for good taste and farmers of the area need special attention of the agriculture department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP).
There are a number of fruits grown in the merged districts including apple, grapes, apricot, peach, pomegranate and tomatoes. The experts said that farmers need special attention of the provincial government to further increase fruit orchards in merged districts.
A wide variety of fruits are produced in district South Waziristan including apple, peach, slender nut (chilgoza) almond, pomegranate, persimmon, plum, apricot, water melon, pear, musk melon, pear, grapes and walnut. Citrus, loquat and mulberry are also produced in some areas, but SWA is not a recognized producer of these fruits. The district is the biggest producer of Kharif fruits in erstwhile FATA, as in 2008-09, total of 70,412 tons of fruits were produced in South Waziristan which accounted for 76.6% of the total production of the tribal districts, a senior journalist from South Waziristan Hamid ullah Wazir told APP.
He said that apple is the largest fruit of South Waziristan, as in 2008-09, the district produced 64,535 tons of apple, which accounted for 73.4% share of tribal districts and 92.3% of SW’s total Kharif fruit production. On a national level, apple production of SW translates into 14.7% of total production despite unavailability of proper nurseries in the district. Moreover, there is low awareness about optimal dose requirements for inputs. High cost of fuel makes irrigation and use of farm machinery difficult. So all such factors lead to a situation where apple productivity is below optimal levels.
Peach is the second largest fruit produced is the district as in 2008-09, 1604 tons of peach was produced in the district, which was 39% of the tribal districts’ production and 2.8% of combined productions of tribal districts and KP.
Pine Nut is an important source of livelihood in forested areas of Shakai, Angoor Adda and Mehsud areas of the districts, as Waziristan produced around 4,460 tonnes of pine nuts annually, which accounts for nearly 90 per cent of the Pakistan’s pine nut produce. Local population attempts to regenerate pine nut trees by planting seeds, but survival rate is only 3-5%, as farmers do not pay attention to use of pesticides, fertilizers and irrigation for Pine trees.
Improper methods damage branches of tree which affects the next year’s production. Post harvest operations of nuts extraction, grading and packing are carried out using very traditional tools and skills which results in increasing wastages. Moreover, Walnut is the other important dry fruit nut of South Waziristan which is cultivated by large number of people.
However, farmers of the district employ conventional production practices; which offers a high scope for improvement. The farmers and local traders face enormous issue especially to transport the goods to open markets of the country, including Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore and other major cities with ease. Due to dilapidated roads and other problems it took days to reach to the markets, thus causing wide spread unrest among local traders and transporters, besides causing damage to the dry fruit and lose its weight incurring heavy financial losses to traders.
The area is so fertile for fruits production, if the authorities concerned paid due attention, the fruits production in the districts could be increased. The KP government has planned to launch “Fruits for all” programme in the province to meet the nutrition requirements of the people. An official of Agriculture Department KP told APP that fruits for all programme is being started in the province.
He said that under the programme, fruit plants would be provided to different institutions as per their demand. He said that government was making efforts to make province, a fruit producer, so that every person would have sufficient fruits availability. The Agriculture Department would check the quality of fruit plants in accordance with weather condition for fruit plantation in the selected areas of KP.—APP

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