By Shakeel Ali Balti
Allah Almighty has gifted Gilgit Baltistan with rich resource in the form of apricot trees. It is estimated there are a total of 2,971,935 apricot trees in GB and apricots are the most common fruit grown with an average 15 trees per household. The second most popular fruit is apple with an average 5 trees per household. Planting density is only 230 trees/ha,which is much less than the recommended 750 trees/ha, due to apricots being planted around field edges, rather than orchards. Average yields of fresh fruit are 38kg/tree which is good considering the limited use of inputs, although yields of 50kg/tree can be achieved through improved management.
But the main problem of these farmers is that they cannot have yet to get the maximum profit of this opportunity. Mostly families more than there 40% of apricot consume there on at homes while that of 60% of their apricot sold to local contractors who introduce it in to the markets of Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Lahore and Faisalabad. Farm-gate prices fluctuated between PKR180-250/kg (US$1.7-2.40/kg) for good quality dried apricot, although poor quality prices can be as low as PKR45/kg. Based upon supply, prices are highest early and late season. As no inputs are used for apricot production, costs are negligible. Labour is required for harvest and drying but this is carried out by family members at no cash cost. A conservative farm household income for apricot production is based upon harvesting 15 trees with 46% wastage and selling for the lowest price. Prices received by traders for dried apricot delivered to Rawalpindi fluctuated between PKR200- 300(US$2.05-2.85/kg). Although margins per kilogram are small, the larger traders may sell 200 tons of apricot in a season providing a gross margin of PKR1000,000 (US$10,526/kg )for good quality dried apricot in 2015. A gross margin for traders but this is little marginal profit for both trader and farmers who work on apricot production for whole year. Although Pakistan is a leading producer of apricot, most of the Apricot is consumed domestically and only a minor proportion is exported fresh or dried. Pakistan with 303,706 tons of Apricot stands the fourth largest producer of Apricot. The share of GB in apricot production is 114,286 tons. Total production of GB , the fate of farmers, investors and share of apricot in economic can be enhance in future by creating easy access through the CPEC as Russia was the world’s largest importer of dry apricots however; most recent statistics show imports more than halved in 2014. Also, Kazakhstan rose from being a minor importer to a world leader the same year. While Russia is also the largest importer of fresh apricots in 2014 accounted for 24% of world imports. Russia, Germany and Italy together accounted for 50% of the world’s imports.
Gilgit-Baltistan has the potential to provide a critical linkage between resource-rich Central Asia and the Middle East through Pak-China Economic Corridor. China is uniquely placed to pull the key regional states – Russia, Iran, Central Asian states to its side. The Pak-China Economic Corridor is Pakistan’s fortune-changer, but sadly the most important stakeholder has been left out of the huge project. Gilgit-Baltistan, a region deprived of fundamental rights and through which the CPEC would pass, has been given little say in the project. The obvious neglect of the area in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects in the Planning Commission’s list of schemes shown on its web page and imposition of custom duties and income tax without the involvement of the elected assembly are key issues which are a source for concern amongst GB residents and the investors who keeps their eye on future investment in GB apricot and other ventures.
The contributor is a BBA (Agri Business) student at UAF.
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