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MURREE: Besides its picturesque natural beauty, Murree is also blessed with a diversity of seasonal fruits such as apples, apricots, peaches, cherries and pears.

These fruits are found in abundance in the resort town and its adjoining areas and are considered to be tastier compared to that in other parts of the country.

People belonging to Murree, Dewal, Phagwari, Alyot, Sehrbhagla, Rawat, Mosoot Barrain and Phappreel sell these fruits in the local markets and earn handsome revenue.

However, the growers can take only a small quantity of the seasonal fruits to the markets while the rest of the produce goes to waste in the absence of a storage capacity.

The agriculture and horticulture departments are short of data on the production of seasonal fruits in these areas.

According to a survey conducted by a non-governmental organisation, URDP-MKKS, a few years ago, the hilly area produced tons of seasonal fruits.

The report suggested that apricot was the most common fruit grown with an average of 10 trees per household. It was estimated that there were 24,935 apricot trees in Murree and its adjoining areas. However, the number of trees was depleting due to the negligence of the horticulture department and the local people.

These trees were planted decades ago by elders of the area. Later, some fruit trees were also planted with the cooperation of the non-governmental organisation.

Murree is considered to be the third largest apricot producing regions of Pakistan following Gilgit-Baltistan and Swat.

According to experts from the NGO, a large quantity of fruits were thrown away in the absence of a storage facility. They believed that by establishing a storing facility the departments concerned could generate handsome revenue besides creating livelihood opportunities for the local people.

Dr Shahzad, a local nutritionist, said apricots included vitamins A and C, fibre and potassium which can help protect the eyes and heart as well as the digestive system. According to him, dried apricots are an excellent source of iron which is helpful to reduce weight as well.

Mahmood Abbasi, an old cultivator hailing from Potha Shareef, said many types of apples, apricots and plumbs were found in the area.

The seasonal fruits produced in Murree and its suburbs are more delicious and tasty than that found in Swat, Quetta and Kashmir, he claimed.

However, the seasonal fruits, especially apricots, produced in the hilly area survive only for a few days after yanking from trees in the absence of a storage facility, he said.

The provincial government should establish cold storage units in Murree to prevent the wastage of the precious seasonal fruits, he added. Besides, the establishment of fruit processing plants in the area would also be beneficial.

“Fruits planted by our forefathers decades ago are depleting rapidly owing to the negligence of the agricultural department,” said Fazal Hussain of Phagwari.

He also admitted the lethargic approach of the local people towards the downfall of agricultural activities.

The field officers deployed in each union council often remain absent from their offices, he complained.

An official of the agricultural department requesting anonymity blamed climatic changes and the lethargic approach of the locals for the less agrarian activities in the area.

Published in Dawn, August 21st, 2017