SWABI: Despite producing fine quality gur (jaggery), growers of sugarcane in Jalsai, Jalbai and Jaganat regions are in financial crunch.
Talking to Dawn on Wednesday, they said the gur was popular not only across the region but also in the periphery districts. They recalled that earlier the entire region was famous for tobacco production and the growers were hired in other tobacco growing regions of the province during the crop curing season.
However, gradually the growers diverted to sugarcane cultivation because the margin in the tobacco profit had reduced manifold, and growing sugarcane was profitable.
“We started growing sugarcane instead of tobacco because we did not face any problem in selling gur. However, the price of gur remains low which has affected our financial position,” said Abdullah, a grower.
Jabeen Qamar, an agriculture expert from Jalsai area, said the dwindling demand of gur was because markets in Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics were no longer available for the product, and the local market could not purchase the whole quantity.
He said Pakistani gur reached not only to central Asian states but also to Russia, however, war in Afghanistan and deteriorating relations between Islamabad and Kabul caused great damage to the farmers.
The farmers said in 2008, 150 kilogramme gur was sold at Rs16,000 in the market, but now the same quantity could be acquired for only Rs10,000 despite increased prices of fertilisers, pesticides and other related things. “In such a situation how the financial status of the farmers could improve,” Mr Qamar questioned.
Liaqat Ali, a farmer of Jamra, said the successive governments had failed to take meaningful steps for encouraging the poor farmers.
The growers said their financial position was going from bad to worse with the passage of time because there had been no help from the government. They said there was no industry where they could earn their living and that all their income and the whole year expenditures were linked with their crop yield.
“The local farmers do not use any chemical for improving the quality or look of the commodity. We produce unadulterated gur,” said Khan Wali of Jalsai.
The farmers said from agriculture point of view their land was quite fit for sugarcane cultivation and best quality gur.
They said peanuts of the entire Chota Lahor region were famous for taste across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The farmers complained that during the peak summer period they could not get enough irrigation water through the canals and demanded that the provincial government resolve their problem on a priority basis.
Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2019