Citrus production: Sargodha’s orange farms endangered by diseases in absence of research

Published: April 10, 2015
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Pakistan has succeeded on many fronts like establishing fruit processing factories and fruit packaging, but we have badly failed in improving the quality. STOCK IMAGE

Pakistan has succeeded on many fronts like establishing fruit processing factories and fruit packaging, but we have badly failed in improving the quality. STOCK IMAGE

SARGODHA: The government will financially reward the farm owners that encourage new research to overcome the canker disease in orange orchards, said Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan.

Speaking to orange growers and exporters in the first-ever Orange Exporters Award, organised by the Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Association (PFVA) and the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) here on Thursday, he said, “diseases, especially canker, are posing a threat to Sargodha orange farms.”

The government could not do much, if the growers and exporters did not come forward and act against fruit diseases, he said.

Sargodha is the hub of orange production in Pakistan with an overwhelming share of over 90% in annual output. However, years of neglect have compounded problems of the farmers and exporters and now various diseases are threatening the very existence of orange farms in the city.

“If the government and exporters do not take emergency measures, fruit diseases can badly hurt orange exports in coming years,” said PFVA Patron-in-Chief Waheed Ahmed.

“Pakistan has succeeded on many fronts like establishing fruit processing factories and fruit packaging, but we have badly failed in improving the quality. This has to change now,” he warned.

Ahmed was of the view that Pakistan could increase fruit and vegetable exports from the current $625 million to $7 billion in the next 10 years.

Similarly, orange exports can jump from the current $200 million to $1 billion if all stakeholders start applying latest research in Sargodha.

DPP Director General Dr Mubarak Ahmad said due to efforts of all stakeholders, this year orange exports touched a record 350,000 tons, compared to last year’s 230,000 tons.

DPP is one of the 14 organisations that work under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research. It provides complete quarantine facilities to fruit and vegetable growers.

The organisation came into the limelight last year when it strictly enforced quarantine rules on the import and export of fresh and other farm products. Efforts of DPP officials saved the country from a possible ban by the European Union on fruit and vegetable imports from Pakistan.

Ahmad also warned orange growers, exporters and the government that canker was an existential threat, which had to be dealt with firmly in coming years. A large number of orange growers attended the meeting. They appreciated the government’s recent efforts aimed at maintaining the quality of oranges being exported.

The growers said they were aware of the growing threat of diseases in Sargodha and were trying to follow good agricultural practices in the farms.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 10th,  2015.

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