MINGORA: Electric dryers powered by local micro hydro power plants (MHPs) are transforming the poor farmers’ lives towards economic advancement as they saw over 80 per cent increase in their profits for their dried red persimmons after seeing attractive demand in the local and national markets.
Owing to suitable climatic conditions, the red persimmons are in abundance in Swat valley which produces over 50,000 tons of the fruit, and, apart from regular orchards, every house in the upper belt of Swat has two to three persimmon trees.
However, the poor farmers couldn’t get commercial benefits of the abundant production of the fruit due to its high chances of perishing and the lowest shelf life.
All supplies of red persimmon reaching markets create a glut, forcing the poor farmers to bear losses of costs incurred on harvesting, packaging and transportation.
“We have not seen a welcoming market for the red persimmons and never took it serious to send it even to local fruit markets because it cannot even returns the harvesting, packing and transportation cost,” said Aminul Haq, a famer in Peochar valley of Matta tehsil.
Abdul Hameed, a poor farmer of village Talsar, who had about 18 trees was disappointed by the low prices of fresh persimmons and started cutting down them.
However, he shunned the idea of cutting them down as he and his wife were selected members of the business interest group (BIG) for red persimmons formed by SRSP under the European Union’s Programme for Economic Advancement and Community Empowerment in Swat.
“We have learnt the process of drying the persimmons after which we jointly followed the method of drying them in the electric dryers installed and powered by the energy generated by MHP in our area under the programme.
This year we earned an additional income of Rs187,000 by marketing 425kgs of dried red persimmon,” Mr Hameed told Dawn while loading trays of sliced persimmons in the electric dryer. Even women of the area seem proactive in learning the fruit’s drying skills.
According to the value chain experts, ultimately, all the BIGs of the district collectively succeeded in quality drying of 12 tons of fresh red persimmon utilising the energy generated by MHPs in Swat.
“By introducing electric dryers for red persimmons drying, farmers stopped cutting down their trees and have come out of the disappointing situation now,” Mohammad Amjad, a value chain officer, told Dawn.
“The initial introduction of the electric dryers for fruits is so encouraging that the farmers realised over 80 per cent increase in their income,” he claimed.
“We have also sent the dried persimmon’s sample from Swat to Middle East where it was very much liked, but proper channels for its export have yet to be worked out,” he said.
Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2015