Zulfiqar Ali Khan
Hunza, October 23: The small farmers of Gojal Tehsil have demanded of the Government and local administration to provide free fuel for transportation of apple and potato crops across the Hunza Lake, in order to save the already meager livelihood opportunities. They have said that the Government should ensure the fuel supply from the aid provided by the Chinese Government.
The people have said that the harvest of potato starts from November 10-15 in Punjab, and only 15-20 days are in hand to make sure the supply of the potato to market. In case of Chupurson valley it is important to make an urgent arrangement to shift potato to Sost at least, as freezing will be starting very soon, they have demanded.
According to reports, around 20,000 bags of potato (@100-120kgs/bag) is expected to be transported out of Gojal despite of the fact that majority of the farmers have not grown potato due to the disaster and the low productivity this year. It has been known that 5-6 thousand bags of potato are expected from Chipurson only. Similarly, the expected apple production is calculated as 80 tons in Gojal which needs to be marketed to ensure supplementary income to the small growers.
It has been known that businessmen from down country are reluctant to work in the area due to extremely high transportation cost approx. Rs.11-15/kgs and the involved risk in transportation. Special labours can only shift potato from tractor, truck, boat/fary especially in spillway area which is costly as well. Some local entrepreneurs have agreed to work on potato and apple marketing if Government supports in the transportation. The market rate of potato in other parts of Hunza-Nagar is about Rs. 1,000-1,200 per bag, which is very low as compared to last year.
It is worthy to mention here that about 70% of the inhabitants were depending on Potato for livelihood, with an annual turnover of over Rs. 600 million last year. The lake formed on Hunza river has inundated about 22 km of the strategic KKH which was the lifeline of communication in the region.