Swat’s growers relish bumper onion crop

Published June 17, 2024
A farmer collects onions at a field in Swat. — Dawn
A farmer collects onions at a field in Swat. — Dawn

SWAT: Onion growers in Swat have expressed their satisfaction in recovering from the substantial losses incurred last year due to a disease known as onion smudge.

The growers are experiencing a season of joy and prosperity thanks to an exceptional yield of onions this year. The region, renowned for its agriculture, successfully overcame last year’s setbacks, resulting in abundant harvests that made their way to markets across Punjab.

Last year, Swat’s onion crop was severely affected by a local disease called “Toorke,” or onion smudge. This disease caused the onions to become stunted and spotted, leading to significant financial losses for the farmers, with losses amounting to millions of rupees. However, this year has painted a brighter picture for the agricultural community.

A local farmer, Mohammad Gulab, shared his joy with Dawn, stating, “The crop has been very good this year. Onion prices are also good in the market. So the farmer is very happy that he will get the fruits of the year’s hard work.”

Say last year they suffered huge losses due to onion disease

The improved crop yield and favourable market prices have brought much-needed relief and optimism to the farmers.

Another farmer, Shafiqur Rehman, highlighted the preference for Swat onions in the market. He noted, “At present, onions from Swat, Balochistan, and Afghanistan are available across the country, and Swat onions are preferred among all of them.” This preference is reflected in the current market rates, where a sack of onions is sold for a substantial Rs8,000 in Punjab markets, much to the farmers’ satisfaction.

According to the agriculture department, onion cultivation spans 4,450 acres in the region, producing approximately 1.16 million kilogrammes of onions annually. With current market prices ranging from Rs100 to Rs120 per kg, this year’s onion yield is expected to bring in over Rs11.6 billion for Swat farmers. This substantial income underscores the importance of onion farming to the local economy and its role in employing thousands of people year-round.

The onion farming cycle in Swat begins in September, with labourers working in the fields until June. The harvested onions are packed and dispatched to markets from June to July. Following the onion harvest, these fields are planted with tomatoes and later wheat and rice, ensuring continuous employment and agricultural productivity throughout the year.

Swat’s onions are particularly cherished nationwide for their unique flavour.

Farmer Mohammad Naeem explained to Dawn: “Most of the onion fields in Swat are on the banks of the Swat River. The crop is irrigated by the cold water of the Swat River, which gives the Swat onion the unique flavour that makes it a favourite.” This distinctive taste, attributed to the river’s cold water, sets Swat onions apart from those grown in other regions, allowing them to command higher market prices.

The resurgence of Swat’s onion crop signifies a period of economic recovery for the farmers. It reaffirms the region’s status as a critical player in the country’s agricultural sector.

As Swat onions continue to reach markets across the country, the farmers look forward to a prosperous season, buoyed by the promise of fruitful returns from their labour-intensive efforts.

This year’s successful onion yield has ushered in a wave of relief and optimism among Swat farmers. The combination of favourable market prices and the unique flavour of Swat onions has ensured that this year’s crop is profitable and highly sought after across the country, marking a significant turnaround from the challenges faced last year.

Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2024

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