SKARDU: The Economic Transformation Initiative (ETI) programme of Government of Gilgit-Baltistan, cofounded by IFAD, will establish over 100 commercial orchards of apricots in Baltistan.
This initiative has been taken to meet the current market demand and transform traditional apricot production system into a modern commercial based production.
The sizes of the orchard will range between 0.5 acres to 1.25 acres with an estimated cost of PKR 534,350 to 935,875. The recommended varieties were Ameri, Charmaghzi, Halman, Bahi and some others, keeping the demand and market of both fresh and dry apricot in view.
In this regards, 28 agreements were signed in the first phase with selected farmers of Shigar and Skardu Districts of Baltistan Region at RCU-Baltistan. A detailed orientation session was also held for the farmers.
During the orientation session, Barkat Ali, RPC Baltistan discussed the modalities of the project interventions, responsibilities of the selected farmers and implementing partners.
Congratulating the farmers, he hoped that these orchards would not only contribute in increasing household income of selected farmers but would also serve as model orchards for other local farmers.
Apricot is an important source of livelihood in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and has been an integral part of the local culture and ecology for centuries. Due to its agro-climatic effect, GB is highly suitable for production of apricot, but its plantation is not organized.
Apricot trees and apricots are found almost everywhere in GB. According to a survey conducted by GB Agriculture Department, every household in the region on an average has 30 trees of which at least 15 are apricot trees. Apricots are an important part of the local food chain and its trees considered one of the most important socio-economic household assets.
Its fruit is eaten fresh as well as dried and consumed domestically and sold commercially to national and international markets. As per GB Agriculture Statistics Survey Report 2014, the share of GB in Pakistan’s total apricot production during the year was 125,184 tons (42% of the national production).
Most of the existing apricot varieties are highly perishable. These varieties are not suitable to be transported down country. According to GB Agriculture Department, currently around 50 percent of dried apricot while only two percent of fresh apricot is marketed (DoA, 2014).
Due to varietal mixing issues, private companies such as processors, traders, commission agents, middlemen, exporters always face problems in meeting demand of their clients for desired varieties and volume. To ensure the economy of scale, improve bargaining power of the producers and reduce post-harvest losses, there is a need to transform the apricot value chain.