Balochistan’s hidden potential of date farming needs govt patronage
QUETTA: Balochistan besides huge natural resources, also has another untapped potential in the form of delicious and unique dates which need the authorities' attention as the farmers are facing decline in production due to no processing facilities and cold storage capacity.
"The Panjgur and Turbat districts of Makran division are producing 51 percent of the country’s dates in a year where the date harvest is spreading over an area of about 20,000 hectares. It is also one of the main crops for 70 percent of the population of the area," said Agricultural Researcher Abdul Hanan in an exclusive talk with APP.
He said: "The government should take initiatives to encourage farmers for cultivating dates as the region has potential to produce the best varieties of dates including Mozawti, Begam Jani and others."
Since, the provincial government was promoting less water intensive plants species due to prevailing drought season like olives and pistachio. It should also facilitate the farmers to plants more dates trees this year in Balochistan, he added.
Hanan said, in dates' varieties, Mozawti was indigenous specie and most of its production had been carried out in Panjgur district.
"Mozawti has best taste and quality whereas due to its appearance, rich nutritional benefits has high demand among national and international consumers," he told.
To a question, he said the processing technology and set up required a curing machine, drying, washing and vibrating chambers, elevator machine, reefer containers, grading tables, conveyer, packaging and pitting machines that took dates from the field to the market with proper presentation.
The implementation of such technology could help the local farmers to produce export quality fruit which was the much-desired demand of the farmers, he mentioned.
It was necessary for the authorities concerned to realize that the long neglected sector needed uplift and patronage of the government as date farming and production was the main source of income for the local people, he maintained.
Dates processing plants should be established in the production areas to preserve the production, a local farmer Nazeer Baloch said.
Due to lack of dates processing facilities in the area, there were limited profit margins for local farmers as they procure and sell at lower prices to the traders, who were mostly taking it to Iran for processing and packaging as the closest border region, he said.
"These dates are being processed in Iran and sold back to Pakistan and other international markets as 'Made in Iran' dates at a much higher price. The traders used to buy these good quality dates directly from the farmers at Rs 150 per kilogramme (kg). After the processing and packaging stages the same dates are being sold for Rs 1200 per kg," Nazeer said.
He said the Balochistan government should take steps to enhance the export of dates to boost the regional economy and agro sector.
Nazeer further elaborated that old harvesting techniques and non-availability of appropriate packing of the commodity had remained the main reason behind less production.
The government should launch a training programme to educate the farmers about modern techniques for better production and also conduct research through the collaboration of International Agro based organization, he added.
The government should ensure connectivity between the fields and the market and also establish fruits markets across the province to facilitate the local farmers, he added.
It merits to mention here that previous provincial government had established a cold storage and dates market in Turbat district which was non-functional since its inception as the entire set up is being built. - APP