CHITRAL: Most of the dry and dried fruit sold in Chitral markets are brought in either from Gilgit-Baltistan or from Afghanistan.
Walnut and jalghoza (pine nuts) are the only such local products.
The other dry and dried fruit including apricot, fig, mulberry and almond are grown in the region but the growers don’t process and preserve them for sale on the market.
Shahi Bazaar dry fruit trader Samad Khan told Dawn that the dried apricot and mulberrywere brought in from GB though both fruits were grown in large quantity in Chitral.
He said apricot and mulberry produced in the region were fed to animals by growers.
Walnut, jalghoza only locally produced dry fruit available in market
The trader said central and lower Chitral produced both wild and grafted species of figs on large scale two to three times a year but all that went to waste as no one collected and processed them for earning.
“Ironically, all figs available on the local market are imported from Afghanistan and sold at high price of Rs600 per kg,” he said.
Mr Samad said almonds were produced in lower Chitral.
“Wild almond species grow naturally in the mountainous terrains and steppes but no one bothers to collect their seeds to sell on the market,” he said.
He said the quality of fruitproduced in Chitral was in no way inferior to GB or Afghanistan’s but the people couldn’t earn money from them for lacking processing training and management.
The trader Chitral lagged far behind than its neighboring GB region in that field.
“Until recently, only the locally produced walnut was sold here but now, Chinese walnut has begun coming to put up a serious challenge to it. The imported walnut is larger in size and cheaper in price,” he said.
Mr Samad said local farmers sold dry fruit of high quality to non-local traders, who visited them well before the harvesting time and made payments in advance.
Trader Bashir Hussain Azad said the local market had jalghoza as the only locally produced dry fruit, which was sold at a price non-locals could not even think about.
He however said jalghoza was in short supply due to scanty rainfall.
The trader said the Chitral bazaar had no proper dry shop 10 to 12 years ago and non-locals later began dry and dried fruit business there offering the processed items from GB and Afghanistan.
He said no proper dry shops used to be there in Chitral bazaar till 10 to 12 years ago exclusively dealing the commodity and offering the best processed items transporting from GB and Afghanistan and those starting the business were also non-locals.
Mr Azad said the local farmers should be educated about ways of preserving apricot, mulberry and figs to earn large sums of money.
He said the supply of electricity from theGolen Gol hydropower station in February this year had made the fruit dehydration and packaging possible.
“Now, these dehydration and processing units can be established in every village here like GB,” he said.
The trader said fruitsdried in traditional ways by exposing them to direct sunlight lost charm, taste and brittleness and thus, fetching no market.
He said the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme recently introduced the making of jam and pickle from freshfruits in the region.More and more women were taking it up for livelihood.
Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2018