The recent heavy rains in Sindh have wreaked havoc on the date harvest, causing a severe shortage of this beloved fruit in local markets. According to Ghulam Qasim Jaskani, a veteran palm grower from Khairpur, “I expect this year’s harvest to reach just 10,000 tonnes of dates, compared to the usual 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes during a good season.”
Jaskani expressed the impact of torrential rains on date production, stating, “Even this year, the intermittent monsoon rains have damaged the fruit to a large extent.” To mitigate the losses, growers like Jaskani had to start harvesting early, resulting in the production of Chowara (dry dates), which are processed at an early stage. Early harvesting was necessary to save part of the crop as the ripe dates were no longer viable.
Despite these challenges, growers have managed to fetch good prices for their Chowara in local markets, with prices ranging from Rs 3,000 to Rs 20,000 for Aseel Chowara and Rs 5,000 to Rs 30,000 for Dhakki Chowara, depending on quality. These dates are also expected to be exported within the year.
There are two main commercial date varieties, Aseel and Karbalain, with Aseel accounting for 95% of production. Growers highlighted the growing trend of Dakki dates due to Chowara’s larger size and better prices compared to Aseel. The impact of these rains extends beyond local markets, affecting international exports. Zubair Ahmed Phulpoto, another date grower, said Aseel dates are favored for their sweetness and a significant loss of this variety could lead to increased imports of dates from Iran, especially during the holy month of Ramadan.
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Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) Chairman Mehmood Nawaz Shah acknowledged the challenges faced by the growers and predicted that the rates of dates will skyrocket during Ramadan due to severe shortage of local produce. He urged the government to focus on horticulture, introduce modern machinery and establish pre- and post-harvest cold storage facilities to guard against climate-related losses.
He highlighted Pakistan’s significant date production but noted the lack of modern infrastructure and techniques. “Pakistan is ranked number six or seven in date production in the world, but we have poor infrastructure and lack of modern machinery and techniques, so we have to suffer heavy losses in agricultural production,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd2023.
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