The main strength of the economy of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) depends largely on fruits and horticulture, but lack of interest of public sector organisations towards this paradise from where we could earn billions of rupees through fruits exports has remained neglected.
What is needed is establishment of proper infrastructure there.Instead of investing on research and innovation, Pakistan’s agriculture sector is focused on increased use of inputs, including fertilisers, pesticides and water, which has led to stagnation in productivity,” said CEO Harvest Tradings and member export Islamabad Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Ahmad Jawad.Talking to Business Recorder, he said: “Huge opportunities exist in the agriculture sector and organic farming in GB area.
Climate and abundant water resources make it ideally suitable for marvellous growth of this sector in Gilgit Baltistan, where immense potential is yet to be exploited.” The most scrumptious fruits in Gilgit Baltistan include apricots, peaches, mulberries, apples and honey-dew melons.
Trees of almonds and walnuts also grow rapidly.He said harsh weather of Gilgit Baltistan disables annual farming and it is only possible during summers and springs and that too for a short time.
People usually harvest crops and dry the fruits to survive the harsh climate of winters.
A huge variety of apricot are found there such as Khalman, Kho, Marghulam, and many more.
Each type has its own specific characteristics.
Continuous experimentation of new varieties is going on as to produce more juicy, sweet and flavoured fruits.Jawad said Gilgit-Baltistan also grows dates, mango, plums, cherry, peaches, blue berries, water and honey melon.
These delicious dry fruits are shipped all over the heart of Asia and are being used in the preparation of sweet dishes and tasty traditional cuisines.
People of Gilgit-Baltistan don’t appreciate the usage of fertilisers and technology and prefer to use traditional farming which is good from the health point of view.Prospects for foreign investment are equally high and the investors could launch ventures in different alluring sectors, he said.
Meanwhile, Indonesia has expressed desire to extend maximum co-operation to Gilgit-Baltistan government in its efforts aimed at bringing progress and prosperity in the area.
Indonesia has the expertise in these areas and the sharing of technical skills could create a win-win situation.
Japan has also agreed to provide around Rs 437 million in aid for promoting manufacture of value added fruit products in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Japan International Co-operation Agency has extended the firm commitment to fund value addition of apples and apricots,” he said.From Gilgit Baltistan (GB), the nearest large city is Rawalpindi/Islamabad and the road distance is nearly 600 kms.
Under these conditions one of the options available is to process the fruit at location to increase its shelf life and to add to its value, so that it may be transported economically.Jawad highlighted that lack of facilities, such as non-availability of cold storage for short-term storage of fruit and of export quality packaging material, quality control for grading and facilities for washing and disinfection also needed to be developed.
The development of roads and infrastructure in Gilgit-Baltistan is also on the cards as investors are keen to invest in construction of all weather airports in Gilgit and Skardu.
Investment in Gilgit-Baltistan would not only be beneficial to that particular area but it would also help strengthen the economy of the country, he added.
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