Damage to standing crops in Malakand

By Tahir Ali (Economic & Business Review June 15 to 21, 2009)

15_06_2009_603_003_006 Dawn

FARMING is virtually at a standstill in the Malakand division because of the ongoing military operation and insurgency. Around 80 per cent of the population there is dependent on livestock and fruit orchards for its livelihood. Standing crops are being destroyed as they could not be harvested after massive displacement of people from the war zone.

An official of the Swat agriculture department told this scribe in Peshawar that the extent of damage could not be ascertained so far. But as per careful reckoning, fruit orchards and livestock worth over Rs6 billion might have suffered.

Jehanzeb from Kabal, Haji Mohammad Gul from Thana and Ali Rehman from Khwazakhel told this scribe in Mardan that fruit orchards and livestocks worth billions of rupees in the division were affected. Either there was no harvesting of fruit or if there was any, it had simply rotted. “There was (is) no storage facility for lack of electricity. Generators also require oil which was not available for weeks. So, the fruit lying in storages perished.” “Hundreds of truck-loads of fruit that used to leave Swat during this period could not the despatched, resulting in huge losses to the farmers. Peach could not be harvested due to warlike situation. And the harvested peaches rotted as all routes were blocked because of curfew and feared presence of militants. This may have caused a colossal loss to farmers, dealers, wholesalers and the middle-men, besides depriving thousands of people of jobs.” Haji Jan Mohammad from Kalam said that crops of persimmon, pear and apple in Swat which were ready by July-August each year for marketing were in danger of being wasted due to shortage of urea, water, fertiliser and absence of farmers to look after them.

Director general of livestock and dairy development, NWFP, Dr Sher Mohammad, said that Malakand hosted big livestock business and fruit orchards but it stood badly affected by insurgency and displacement of over 3.5 million people. He said no field survey was possible in the given circumstances, but the World Bank had constituted a committee to assess the damage which would start its work after normalcy returns. He, however, said he was in no position to say anything about the loss to the livestock sector at present. Another official said that the loss could be in billions.

Director General of Agricultural Extension, NWFP, Saifullah also cited law and order and curfews for his department’s inability to assess the actual loss to the agriculture in Malakand.

Haji Niamat Shah, the vice-president of Anjuman-i-Kashtkaran, NWFP, said the farmers had lost billions in Swat as orchards were destroyed. He demanded compensation for farmers.

Malakand Division hosts thousands of orchards of high quality peach, plums, pear, apple and citrus fruits. In 2007-08, Swat produced 43,000 tons out of 52,000 tons of peaches produced in NWFP. Of the 0.36 million tons of different fruit in that period, Malakand accounted for 0.17 million tons. Out of 22,372 tons of pear yield in NWFP, the division produced 11,600 tons.

It accounted for 10,626 of the province wide plums’ yield of 32,232 tons. Malakand also produced around 95 per cent of walnuts, 80 per cent of persimmon, around 67 per cent of apricots and over 53,000 tons of the 64,000 total provincial apple yield.

Final estimates for the Rabi fruit 2007-08 reveal that Malakand accounted for 15,830 tons of the total NWFP citrus yield of 31,784 tons.

NWFP, especially Malakand, also has comparative advantage in the per hectare production of fruits and vegetables. For example, average per hectare yield production of apple and peach in the division is 12.4 and 11.4 tons as against 7.5 and six tons in rest of the country. In onion, per hectare yield is 19 tons against 14.8 tons .

However in food crops such as wheat, average per hectare is comparatively low. There is room for its improvement here.

Fruits and livestock were the most affected sectors along with tourism in the region. To cope with the situation, the provincial government is preparing a recovery plan for the six militancy-hit districts of Malakand division. Billion of rupees will be required to compensate the farmers’ losses.

The farmers would need seeds, fertilisers and pesticides. Besides, the government will have to arrange for tractors and other field-leveling machinery for the affected farmers. Reconstruction of public infrastructure would also require huge expenditure. Malakand Division has already been declared a calamity-hit area.

Livestock and horticulture gives direct and indirect jobs to millions. In order to achieve growth in agriculture, it is necessary to give due attention to the livestock and dairy as well as horticulture sectors.

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