Strawberry plants: Born in the US, raised in Gilgit-Baltistan

Published: June 23, 2014
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Pakistanis will get a taste of Californian strawberries and that too in the luxury of their own backyard as a local company has invested in importing plants from the US. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

Pakistanis will get a taste of Californian strawberries and that too in the luxury of their own backyard as a local company has invested in importing plants from the US. PHOTOS: EXPRESS

KARACHI: 

Contrary to what you may have started believing the story is not about militancy or insurgency. It is about something red though.

Pakistanis will get a taste of Californian strawberries and that too in the luxury of their own backyard as a local company has invested in importing plants from the US.

The aim, however, does not end here and goes higher as the company, which is growing these strawberries in the fields of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), also intends to export the high-value fruit to regional markets.

The development is in contrast to the tradition of Pakistan exporting raw material only to see value-addition by foreign countries before importing the product.

The Pakistani-American businessman, however, has taken the initiative to import strawberry plants, along with other fruits, to make some money and help small farmers in the province at the same time.

He imported the Californian strawberry varieties including Seascape and Tribute and planted them in the picturesque valley in Naltar. With over a 25% share, the US is the top producer of strawberries in the world. The share of California is over 80% in the figure.

The plan seemed simple — import, plant, grow, distribute and export. However, the businessman was soon to learn that the path was not as juicy as he thought.

“I know I may not get the best results this year, but I know high-value fruit crops like strawberry can gradually 1be a good source of earning for both growers and me,” Farm House Export Business Development Director Zulfiqar N Momin told The Express Tribune.

Momin imported over 60,000 strawberry plants (at 16 US cents or Rs16 per plant) in April this year, costing around Rs1 million. Since it was the first experiment of planting strawberries at such a high altitude – though the weather is perfect – around 10,000-15,000 plants failed to grow due to the inexperience of local farmers.

Despite the challenges, the plant importer and growers expect to supply the first crop of Californian strawberries in local markets in the first week of July. The retail price of these strawberries at local stores would be between Rs700-800 per kg – about four times as that of strawberries produced in Pakistan. However, the imported Californian strawberries cost over Rs2,000 per kg, according to Momin.

“The important part of growing these strawberries in G-B is that there is no regional country that grows or can grow them owing to weather constraints. And hence, Pakistan can export these to high-value markets like the UAE and other countries,” added Momin, who has already successfully exported G-B cherry to UAE in the last two years.

According to Momin, the landed cost of these strawberries in UAE is $5.5 per kg and its retail price is $8-9 per kg, which is far above the price of traditional fruits (mango and kinnow) that Pakistan exports to the Emirates. This year, the expected output of these strawberry plants may remain between 15,000-35,000 kg, he informed, adding that it depended upon weather conditions.

But this is not enough — the ambitious fruit exporter has something more profitable in mind.

“I am now working on plantation of blueberries and blackberries. Apart from the extraordinary prospects in export markets, one can also sell these fruits locally where the retail price is already touching Rs7,000 per kg,” he said.

Momin believes that since Pakistan has a large number of farmers who have small lands, especially in G-B, it is very important for the country to move on to high-value fruits. This would help farmers increase their income.

“It’s time for Pakistani fruit exporters to move to high value fruit exports if they want to earn more and increase the overall fruit exports of the country,” he stressed.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2014.

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Correction: An earlier version of the story incorrectly had the addition of “Rs” before the figure “15,000-35,000 kg”. The error has been rectified.

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Reader Comments (26)

  • Robbin
    Jun 23, 2014 - 1:34AM

    Such a lame start to the story and in bad taste. Something red? Really?

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  • S..Nasir Mehdi
    Jun 23, 2014 - 1:49AM

    Why not try olive. The agriculture department/universities may work on many more varieties

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  • Hammad
    Jun 23, 2014 - 2:43AM

    That’s a Monsanto seed, non organic and GMO seed, That’s a NO NO! Please refrain from eating unless you want to infect your body

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  • Chachoo
    Jun 23, 2014 - 4:10AM

    I think the price is over exaggerated for the Berries in the above article. Rs 7000 Per Kg or 50 Euros per Kg for Berries is not even possible in Europe. Also strawberries are produced in regions of Punjab as well and their average retail price is not more than 2-300 Rs rather than the price that is mentioned above.
    Also i would suggest the people to grow their old strawberries and tomatoes at home. I have grown them and they are very easy to produce.

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  • Urooj
    Jun 23, 2014 - 5:27AM

    Great initiative. Best wishes to Mr. Momin and our Gilgit residents for the success of the project.

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  • Observer
    Jun 23, 2014 - 8:45AM

    The facts are not as rosy as the reported to paint.

    A former CEO of an NGO had submitted a proposal to donors, seeking 50,000 strawberry plants, in the name of women empowerment. What has happened, instead, is that the CEO with his coterie of educated bandits has used them for personal gains, on private land, instead of giving them to the rightful owners.

    They have now brought forth their front-men to fool the public. I would urge ET’s reporters to dig deeper, instead of relying on the myths being sold.

    This is one of the development-scams of the century.

    Recommend

  • Syed
    Jun 23, 2014 - 10:23AM

    Great initiative, I think projects like these can go a long way in making things better for farmers and producers.
    Btw, does anyone know what has been done by our agriculture ministry to promote plantation of high value fruits?
    I guess no one.

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  • Rumormonger
    Jun 23, 2014 - 11:50AM

    The strawberries you see in the markets of Karachi in January every year are also of Pakistani origin. The saplings are grown in Swat and then transferred to upper Punjab, where they are cultivated. The strawberries cost around 200-300 rupees per kg. So the ET reported thing is nothing new for Pakistan some only something new for Gilgit-Baltistan. Good luck.

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  • antanu
    Jun 23, 2014 - 12:24PM

    @Chachoo:
    Read carefully. …its 700 and not 7000

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  • Riaz
    Jun 23, 2014 - 1:54PM

    @antanu:
    Read Carefully again….its 7000 for berries not 700

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  • Mooa
    Jun 23, 2014 - 2:23PM

    Opening line unnecessary and in bad taste.

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  • Chachoo
    Jun 23, 2014 - 2:24PM

    @antanu: I will suggest you read carefully again and then comment. I was referring to Berries ( Blue and Black ) prices and in the above article it is clearly mentioned Rs 7000. The price of Strawberries is referred to as Rs 700.

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  • ishrat salim
    Jun 23, 2014 - 2:50PM

    It is good start, but would suggest that GMO free seeds & its product will enable our farmers & entrepreneurs to sell ” Organic ” product & fetch better margin., good for health & pocket….Organic products are now here to stay….we are an agriculture country & let us ensure that we stick to it….we have advantage over many countries due to cheap labor….Yes Olives to can be grown….we have so many types of weather., talent & resources ..that Allah swt has bestowed upon us…which we have lost sight of.

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  • M. Ahmed
    Jun 23, 2014 - 3:37PM

    “This year, the expected output of these strawberry plants may remain between Rs15,000-35,000 kg, he informed,”

    What do you mean by Rs 15,000-35,000 kg ?

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  • Bilal
    Jun 23, 2014 - 4:55PM

    As usual, poor standard of reporting by ET. Full of factual and typo errors.

    “This year, the expected output of these strawberry plants may remain between Rs15,000-35,000 kg, he informed,”

    Do you even proofread bro?

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  • Felix Almeida
    Jun 23, 2014 - 5:07PM

    Its a good Idea but what does not connect is that why would someone get so many plants from the States when it would be easier to get a few and clone them out here.

    Something does not add up here.

    Felix.

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  • Waseem
    Jun 23, 2014 - 5:50PM

    I have eaten US plants strawberry and Pak plants strawberry and also I worked in Danish Strawberry field . among all the local indigenous Pakistani plants strawberry are best among all Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan
    Jun 24, 2014 - 1:37AM

    @Hammad:
    “That’s a Monsanto seed, non organic and GMO seed, That’s a NO NO! Please refrain from eating unless you want to infect your body”

    Thanks for warning about GMO (Gene Modified Organisms), the spreading of which is finding stark resistance in Europe European Union. The news has been around, how some of the bigger corporations are trying to get a foothold in the developing countries through the back door.

    GMF (Gene Modified Food) is supposed to “solve” shortage of the world but what else comes along with the package is hardly high lighted.

    Recommend

  • Abid P. Khan
    Jun 24, 2014 - 1:47AM

    @Observer:
    “…They have now brought forth their front-men to fool the public. I would urge ET’s reporters to dig deeper, instead of relying on the myths being sold. This is one of the development-scams of the century. “

    It is time for the state to establish a proper authority to clean up this racket of, all these “benevolent” NGO’s.

    Recommend

  • iKno
    Jun 24, 2014 - 11:02AM

    @Hammad: Sir please! Stop that false alarm. It’s people just like you who are behind anti-polio and Other healthy alternative to a deprived & poverty stricken masses to taste a better life.

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  • Jun 24, 2014 - 3:26PM

    Strawberry plants imported from USA are Non-Gmo. Fyi, we get strawberry fruit from Punjab and Sindh in winters only but these plants are panted in GB and its produce will be available from July. For any info please contact me at naveed@farmhouse.com.pk. I will be more than happy to reply to any queries. ThanksRecommend

  • Anon
    Jun 24, 2014 - 5:02PM

    Lets bring in more such high value fruit plants, cultivate, and then export to high value markets to earn much-needed foreign exchange for the country and its farmers. Say more to such experiments!Recommend

  • Jun 27, 2014 - 8:45PM

    @Abid P. Khan:

    ignorance make Panic to People i would suggest dig yourself Information by Visiting Naltar Valley
    Plant are not GMO its grown from Vitro Driven Tissue Culture even our Horticulturist at GB(Dept of Agriculture are using Patato Seeds Driven from Vitro
    Kindly Note GMO is still debatable in USA & Not Yet Band in USA
    I am not Running any NGO for GB project i would say Framer/Private Party Partnership
    U should incourage for New Commers Rather Pulling Leg

    We are first Company Started Exporting Cherries of GB to UAE/Qatar If u need any documentary Proof i can provide u
    U will see in Coming years lot of our Activity

    Recommend

  • Helga Ahmad
    Jun 29, 2014 - 4:17PM

    Strawberry plants: Born in the US, raised in Gilgit-Baltistan

    This news should normally have a positive impact. However, as Express published an article a few weeks prior on the cracks of Miachar I find this news item disturbing.

    Will the expanding strawberry fields in time have the same effect on the local environment as Miachar, which has expanded considerable during this past decade. And what happened, shrubs and trees were cut and thus the stability of the slope has been endangered.

    Am surprised, that the Government of Gilgit – Baltistan allowed it and that the concerned departments of Karakorum University did now raise the so essential question.

    with Climate Change already in our doors, have the farmers been told that they would have to raise the strawberries in plastic tunnels. Besides, with limited organic waste available, will chemical fertilizer be applied too?

    Recommend

  • Helga Ahmad
    Jun 29, 2014 - 4:30PM

    Strawberry plants: Born in the US, raised in Gilgit-Baltistan

    This news should normally have a positive impact. However, as Express published an article a few weeks prior on the cracks of Miachar I find this news item disturbing.

    Will the expanding strawberry fields in time have the same effect on the local environment as Miachar, which has expanded considerable during this past decade. And what happened, shrubs and trees were cut and thus the stability of the slope has been endangered.

    Am surprised, that the Government of Gilgit – Baltistan allowed it and that the concerned departments of Karakorum University did now raise the so essential question.

    with Climate Change already in our doors, have the farmers been told that they would have to raise the strawberries in plastic tunnels. Besides, with limited organic waste available, will chemical fertilizer be applied too? and not ignored must be: HAVE THE PLANTS BEEN QUARATINED?

    Recommend

  • Jun 30, 2014 - 9:22PM

    @Helga Ahmad:
    Yes Strawberry Plant were imported on bases of proper Import Permit issued by Govt of Pakistan Concern Deptt PPQ
    Plant were gone through Proper Channel once landed Islamabad airports
    Regarding Plastic Tunnels is Not Needed but Plastic Muluching is Good option But Farmers Cannot Afford May be Next year we will come up with Some Domestic Recycle Plastic Sheets can be used as Muluching
    today we have Ship very Small Quantity of Strawberry to Dubai to Big Retailers to see Result if goes Successful than our Plan to ship 2000 kilo on weekly bases from 10/July onwards

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