Production of Khanpur’s red blood oranges declines this year

Published January 16, 2022
Vendors have displayed red blood oranges on their stalls along Khanpur-Taxila Road. — Dawn
Vendors have displayed red blood oranges on their stalls along Khanpur-Taxila Road. — Dawn

TAXILA: Farmers are facing decline in the citrus fruits yield this year in Khanpur thanks to hailstorm, commercial use of land and decrease in soil fertility, causing increase in its prices.

Every year between December and February, the Panj Katha area near Khanpur becomes the destination of the citrus lovers when orange orchards reach their peak but this year high prices disappoint them and they are returning empty handed.

Although the much awaited famous red blood oranges of Khanpur have finally ripened and scores of makeshift kiosks have been set up along the Taxila-Khanpur road by local farmers, high cost has kept them unaffordable for fruit lovers.

The oranges are being sold to Rs1,800 to Rs2,000 per hundred bags while in the past it ranged between Rs1,200 to Rs1,400.

During a visit to citrus orchards in the valley, the local farmers attributed the high cost to decline in the yield this year.

Raja Kamran, a local farmer, told Dawn that in November last hailstorm hit the valley twice which ruined the pulp which resulted in less production of oranges this year.

Syed Hurr Shah, another farmer of Punj Khatta, said establishment of housing societies, government installation, unfavorable weather and ecosystem besides decrease in soil fertility had resulted in decrease in the fruit orchards in the area.

Tahir Durrani, another farm owner, said trees bore around 500 to 800 oranges last year but this year they grew only 50 to 100 this season due to hailstorm which lashed the area at the start of the season. “Many trees bore no fruit while the rest produced only 20 to 40 oranges,” he added.

He said the oranges were small and less juicy mainly because of a decrease in soil fertility. About 50 per cent of the locals have been rendered jobless as the small landlords are giving preference to selling out their fertile land for housing societies instead of growing fruits on them, he added.

He said the cost of agricultural practices has increased manifold as opposed to the produce, which is also forcing the farmers to sell their land.

Moreover, the local horticulture department officials revealed that the low yield is not even sufficient to meet local demand for the fruit.

The officials said that citrus orchards of the area was spread over 280 hectares. The area produces various varieties of oranges including Hamlin, Blood Red, Washington Navel, Ruby-red and shakry, mussammy, early fruiter and grapefruit. The officials said that the local farmers are selling oranges from Swat and Sargodha in the name of red blood Khanpuri oranges.

Other buyers at the kiosks said they had come from Islamabad and Rawalpindi just to buy blood oranges.

“I come here every year to buy these oranges but this year, the rate has gone up and reduced my buying power,” said Uzair Kiyani, a customer.

Another customer Fizza Rehman from Islamabad said that one orange is being sold from Rs18 to Rs20, which is unaffordable for salaried class.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2022

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