Swat fruit dealers continue suffering losses

Post Source: The News International – Friday, June 26, 2009
Nisar Mahmood

PESHAWAR: The farmers and fruit dealers of Swat continue to suffer losses of millions of rupees because of the prolong blockade of roads that has brought transportation of the products to a complete halt.

Like previous years, fruits like peach, plums and apricots could not be marketed this season, too, because of the operation against militants, imposition of curfew and road blockade that still continues.

The militancy and operation caused losses of millions of rupees to the farmers and dealers besides rendering thousands of labourers jobless. Plums, apricots and some varieties of peach have already been wasted while variety No 5 to 8 of the peaches, apples and persimmons are at risk if not marketed and transported out of the valley, a fruit dealer and former nazim of Chuprial Union Council, Muhammad Shafiq, told The News.

Shafiq said the fruit dealers had paid millions of rupees to farmers like the past year but their products could not be marketed because of curfew. Putting the losses at millions, he said only from Matta 120 truckloads of fruits would be shifted to down country daily. Normally, fruit transportation would continue from May to November, he added.

He said the militancy and operation had also rendered thousands of labourers jobless. Substantiating his claim, the fruit dealer said only in one orchard at Shalpalum 500 labourers were working. But the ongoing operation and militant attacks had badly affected the transportation, packing and marketing of the fruits, causing huge losses to the district economy. “Me and my partners had paid Rs10 million to farmers last year but the fruit could not be marketed and thus the money has been lost,” he said.

Approximately 30 to 40 per cent area, especially in Matta, Kabal and Khwazakhela and Swat Kohistan, have fruit orchards that provide employment to 70 per cent of the people, who remain engaged in spray, tuning of trees, packing and transportation of products, etc, to feed their families. The situation has badly affected the people’s income that is based on agriculture, he added.

A fruit dealer from Gujranwala, Muhammad Ramzan said: “Normally 500 to 600 truckloads of fruit were to be transported out of the district, but the curfew and road blockade has completely stopped the process. Peaches, plums and apricots have gone waste because their shelf life is very short and the remaining fruit will also be lost if the situation remained the same.”

Ramzan put the loss to the district economy in billions, saying only Gujranwala had a market of Swat fruit of more than Rs300 million let alone Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Sargodha, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Karachi and other big cities of the country. A halt to fruit transportation from Swat is causing millions of rupees losses to dealers like him besides farmers and labourers, he complained.

The dealer said several fruit dealers, who had invested heavily in purchasing orchards, were worried about their losses while hundreds of families had been deprived of their lone source of income.

Local farmers, labourers and fruit dealers from down country would have no option but to stop investment in agriculture and orchards if the same situation continued, he said, demanding immediate opening of roads so that the fruit transportation could be resumed.


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