KARACHI: Besides being rich in natural resources like minerals, oil and gas, the Balochistan province also has enormous potential in the agriculture sector.
Though the conventional crops like wheat, cotton, etc., are grown in different parts of Balochistan, their actual strength lies in dates production.
Balochistan produces around 225,000 tonnes of delicious and unique export-quality dates from 42,300 hectares in the Panjgur and Turbat districts of Makran division, which amounts to 53% of the country’s total production, according to the province’s Board of Investment and Trade.
The provincial government is taking initiatives to encourage farmers to cultivate dates as the region has the potential to produce the best varieties, including Mozawti, Begam Jangi and others. However, the province still lags behind in realising its full potential in dates production.
Pakistan, the sixth largest date producer, is the world’s third major exporter of dates. According to an estimate, the country annually produces around 600,000 tonnes of dates, out of which only 100,000 tonnes are exported and the rest are either consumed locally or perish. Balochistan contributes 70% of overall dates production.
Begam Jangi of Balochistan is the famous date variety, which has great demand all over the world due to its exotic taste. Despite having huge date export potential, the province lacks storage facilities. Moreover, lack of awareness about best farming practices, improper fruit handling techniques, and an absence of developed processing facilities are major constraints inhibiting profitable date production in Balochistan.
The Makran division produces 130 varieties of dates, which can be exported to the US, Canada, and other countries.
The dates produced in Balochistan unfortunately become the fodder of animals round the year. If infrastructure is built to carry this fruit to the market and export it to foreign states, Pakistan’s export earnings from dates may considerably be increased. There is a need to tap date export potential fully and rationally.
Of late, the date growers in Makran division have suffered huge losses, first due to shortage of water and then to heavy floods.
The government needs to establish dates processing plants in the production areas to exploit this immense potential.
As authorities strive to revive the economy, they also need to focus on the Balochistan’s date-producing areas.