Massive crop losses feared in Swat

By Aamir Shafaat Khan (Dawn)
Friday, 12 Jun, 2009

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KARACHI: No credible data is available to evaluate production losses of fruit and vegetables in Swat in the backdrop of ongoing military operation, however cautious estimates suggest losses may run in millions of rupees.

The Valley of Swat often dubbed as Switzerland of Pakistan produced around 143,324 tons of fruits and 128,018 tons of vegetables last year.

In case the internally displaced persons (IDPs) are not returned to their homeland in the next three weeks to tend to their agricultural produce, a massive loss is feared.

Fruit dealers in Subzi Mandi at Super Highway said supplies from Swat had been suspended completely and growers had suffered huge losses as their entire crops were destroyed in the ongoing operation.

Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB) Chief Executive Shamoon Sadiq told Dawn from Lahore that Swat had produced 42,997 tons of peach in 2007-08, 6,110 tons of plum, 7,515 tons of pear, 300 tons of grapes, 182 tons of almond, 50,355 tons of apple, 4,000 tons of citrus, 6,450 tons of apricot and other fruits in low quantities.

The valley produced 110,200 tons of onion, 800 tons of garlic, 66,057 tons of tomato, 16,569 tons of potato and some other greens in small quantities last year, he added.

He said fruits were grown on 13,119 hectares and vegetables on 10,240 hectares in 2007-08.

However, he said he did not have exact figures of production losses in terms of crop devastation, situation of standing and maturing crops and perishing of fruits and vegetables after massive exodus from Swat.

He estimated agriculture production may suffer 30 per cent losses if Swat people do not return to their homes in next three weeks. However these losses may mount to 50 per cent in case of further delay, he warned.

He said that if the entire producing areas of fruits had been destroyed then it would take at least four to five years for tree plantation and its full growth, while three to four months for sowing vegetables.

Shamoon said that the prices of fruits (similar varieties arriving from other cities) had already doubled signaling towards a massive destruction of crops in Swat.

He said peach, persimmon and plum were ripe but these items may perish in case their growers could not return for taking care.

He said that the average farm value of fruits is estimated at Rs20 per kg while vegetable’s average value is Rs10 per kg. One can estimate the varying prices starting from the producing areas, commission agents, wholesalers and finally to the retail side.

During the off season period especially in vegetables in Punjab and Sindh producing areas, Swat provides a back up for some items like onion, potato and tomato, he added.

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