A huge quantity of apricots — one of the major products of Gilgit-Baltistan — goes to waste in the absence of advanced solar drying technology that can help the farmers earn more by selling them in the international market, reports WealthPK.
Presently, a majority of the farmers use the traditional drying technique, which takes weeks for the fruit to prepare.
In the traditional method, the apricots are placed in wooden trays, particularly made for this sweet-sour fruit and exposed to the sun for hours. The fruit is left in the sun for at least a week to dry. However, owing to the uncertain weather conditions, a good quantity of the fruit gets damaged that is fed to the cattle.
Talking to WealthPK, Zahid Karim, President Brumkhun Agriculture Cooperation Society Altit Hunza, said under the traditional method, improper drying process, weather uncertainties, high labour costs, large area requirements, insect infestation, dust and other foreign materials spoil the flavor and wholesomeness of the fruit.
“The advanced solar drying technology can help increase the fruit life during storage and transportation. It can also help the framers process most of their produce by protecting them from uncertain weather conditions, particularly a heavy rain.
“The drying process requires much care and a fair environment. If the fruit gets over-dried, it becomes hard to eat, and if it remains under-dried, there is the highest chance of attack by the cankerworms. The solar dying technique can help retain the nutrition and flavor of the fruit by avoiding over and under-drying,” he said.
“The well-dried apricot can be a desirable product in the international market. The government should establish industries in the area for quality packaging and labeling to attract both national and international consumers. There is also a need for quality control institutions in different areas to facilitate the local producers to ensure the credibility of the dried fruit in the export market,” Karim added.
Apricots have great potential for value-added products. The fresh fruit can be used for making juice, can be dried into slices, or can be converted into powder, covering a variety of consumers.
Nowadays, a big chunk of the population prefers organic food to avoid the health issues. Pakistan has the potential to export the organic food to the international market.
Mr. Karim said the introduction of solar dryers in developing countries could reduce crop losses and improve the quality of dried products significantly compared to the traditional drying methods.
He suggested that the district government introduce the solar drying technology in different areas and train and educate the farmers about the food processing.