KOHAT: Ruthless cutting of guava orchards in Kohat has been resulting in environmental degradation in the city besides causing scarcity of the fruit as experts fear that the city’s delicacy may vanish altogether in the near future.

Talking to this correspondent, a former agriculture officer, Mehfooz Elahi Paracha, said that for the last several decades no new orchard had been cultivated.

“A guava tree takes five to six years to bear fruit and commercialisation of the land in Kohat has dented the interest of the growers to plant guava,” he said.

The price of guava fruit, he said, would register a constant rise in the coming years due to its scarcity, mainly due to cutting of orchards. The soaring prices of guava were attributed to its shortage, as a number of orchards located on Jarwanda Road, Rawalpindi Road, Bannu Bypass and other nearby areas had been turned into commercial markets.

In addition, some landlords are going to convert their orchards into small townships which earn them up to Rs600,000 per marla while in the shape of orchards its market value is about Rs10,000 per marla.

Mehfooz Paracha claimed to have made a number of attempts to make it a value-added product for generating more income by establishing juice plants, marmalade and jams.

“The poor growers cannot afford buying the expensive machinery without the financial assistance of the government,” he said. He added that Pakistan imported guava juices from abroad, especially from Malaysia, by spending millions of rupees whereas it could easily be manufactured within the country.

“The environment of Kohat is conducive to growing guava and if the cutting of trees goes on unabated the guava farms would vanish,” he said. The agricultural expert said that the local growers had turned to alternative cultivation, mainly of oranges, on a large scale which resulted in comparatively good returns for them, but in the process Kohat would lose its identity as the best guava-producing district of the country.

However, it is heartening to note that guava farms in Mohammadzai and Kaghazai on Hangu Road are still intact because commercialisation is yet to creep into these areas.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2019