Pakistan’s California has some ways to grow

Sargodha’s kinnow is world famous, but needs proper infrastructure


The taste, sweetness and quantity of juice in Sargodha kinnows have not only made the fruit a local specialty, but also enabled it to gather worldwide acclaim. In the region, more than 50 varieties of citrus are cultivated, but the Sargodha kinnow is the most sought after.

In the 1960s, plants of kinnow were brought from the American state of California to be bred on an experimental basis. This experiment proved to be so successful that the city of Sargodha, thanks to its abundance of kinnows, is called Pakistan's California.

The fruit tends to change their colour with the onset of November, while December seems to be a season of kinnow. The season truly hits its peak in the months of January and February.

Though kinnows are cultivated in Mandi Bhawaldin, Sahiwal, Toba Tek Singh, Khanewal and some areas of K-P, more than 60% of total production is ensured from Sargodha. According to Stress Research Institute Director Muhammad Nawaz Makan, the air and atmosphere of Sargodha, as well as the area’s soil and weather, are the reasons for its abundant production and exemplary taste.

The quantity of juice produced by the kinnow of this area is also greater than that of other areas. According to Muhammad Nawaz, kinnows are cultivated on a total area of more than 500,000 acres in the country and Sargodha is home to 300,000 acres of this land.

Nawaz says that on average, one acre of land produces 200 kilogrammes of kinnows. He adds further research is underway to increase the production of kinnows per acre. The aim, he points out, is to produce high quality kinnow in large quantities to boost exports.
According to Muhammad Riaz, who works as a manager for import, export and business development in the Food Department, production fluctuates every year since the kinnow is a natural product. He continues that on average, 2.5 to three million kinnow are cultivated in the country. However, he bemoans that most of the production is not quality related.

He says though kinnows are produced on one plant, the fruit is divided into 10 categories based on its size and quality. The manager reveals that cultivators and importers divide the kinnow into three types. Category A is polished and exported while B is sold in the local market and Afghanistan. The 'C' category orange is used for value addition.

Riaz clarifies that although the B category kinnow is no less than it’s A counterpart in terms of taste, the size can be smaller. It can also bear marks on its shape or the colour may not be completely orange. Importantly, he highlights that it can also be affected by any disease or insects. Such kinnow are presented to be sold in markets from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to Karachi. The fruit is loaded on trucks and sent to markets in larger cities where they are sold through bids. The lower prices of 'B' kinnow enables  their easy sale in the local market. Riaz states that locals are indifferent to spots on these kinnows, adding the sale of smaller-sized kinnows is smooth and easy.

According to statistics from the Sargodha Chamber of Commerce and Industries, the production of kinnows in the country was more than 25 million tonnes in 2017. Afghanistan remained the biggest market in terms of export, followed by Russia in second and Indonesia was third.

Riaz says a small portion of kinnows produced are exported, while the general production is almost nonexistent in the country. In Sargodha, there are 100 production plants of which 40 export their produce.

Only the best kinnows, in terms of size and appearance are exported. If any mark on the skin or a diseased/smaller fruit is detected, it is separated during processing. According to Riaz, production of this fruit can increase if research institutes working on improving quality.

Secretary Chamber of Commerce and Industries Khaleeq Ahmed Khan recalls that back in the day, Iran used to be the biggest export market for Pakistani kinnows. However, uncertain circumstances led to the neighbouring country banning kinnow exports from Pakistan. He says Pakistan needs to look for new markets. He advises that apart from Europe, Central Asian and Middle Eastern markets need to be explored as there is a considerable margin for kinnow export to these regions.

Kinnow is used in juice, jelly, medicines and cosmetics, but value addition is non-existent in Pakistan. In Sargodha, only two big plants have been installed to extract kinnow pulp and juice. Apart from this, multinational companies have such plants where jam, jelly and marmalade are made from Sargodha kinnow. However, there are a mere handful of plants to make medicines and cosmetics from the fruit.

Muhammad Riaz highlights that introducing more value additions, apart from the existing ones, are a costly endeavor. Riaz tells that there is one such chemical, which if extracted from kinnow, can allow the manufacturing of cosmetics and medicines. However, the extraction process itself requires a heavy investment.
As per Riaz, oil extracted from kinnow peel is used in cosmetics, but this also needs a heavy investment. In addition, research is needed, but few are convinced to carry it out and few people are convinced on the investment involved.

There are some institutes which are invested in protecting the kinnow crop from disease and introducing new varieties. These include the Sargodha Citrus Research Institute, University of Sargodha and Faisalabad Agricultural University.

Dr Basharat Ali Saleem, the horticulturist of the agriculture department, says efforts are being made to produce kinnow which can tolerate water insufficiency. However, he complains that the tendency to research is nonexistent in Pakistan.

He adds that is the same reason why people, overall, are not working with dedication in this sector. The horticulturist adds that as a result, there are hindrances in the production of the latest varieties.


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