PESHAWAR: Early arrival of monsoon season and prolong downpour in most parts of the country badly damaged dates production, depriving thousands of people of annual income besides pushing price of the commodity in market due to widening demand-supply gap.
Growers and traders associated with cultivation and selling of dates in Sukkur and Khairpur districts of Sindh province, the largest date producing region contributing 50 percent to the country’s annual produce of 550,000 to 650,000 tonnes of dates, are of the opinion that prolonged downpour damaged around 70 percent of dates harvest in these districts during current year season.
Dates are grown in all the four provinces of Pakistan over an area of about 75000 hectors while Kharipur and Sukker are the largest producing areas followed by Baluchistan, Punjab and D.l.Khan in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
More than 400,000 tonnes of dates are produced from orchids spreading over thousands of hectors of land in these two districts of Sindh, providing livelihood to thousands of poor laborers.
“This year’s monsoon rains were very unusual, surprising for date growers associated with the practice from the last several decades,” observed Iqrar Ali, an orchid owner.
“Long rain spell during the peak season affected natural ripening of dates, turning the taste from sweet to sour besides causing drop of pre-mature fruits from trees,” Iqrar explains in a talk with media.
“Almost half of date fruits are damaged due to rains which continued for around twenty to twenty two days in Sindh,” estimates Gurmak Das, a date dealer who inherited this trade from his father.
Damage to yield has caused sever increase in price of commodity as on August 2. 2022 around 40 kg of dry date (chowara) is sold at a price of Rs. 26,000 against the routine price of Rs. Five to Seven thousand per mound (40 kg), disclosed Gurmak.
Talking to APP from Sukker, Gurmak Das said good quality date is not available in market even at a price of Rs. 10 to 11 thousands, almost double from the normal price of Rs. Five to six thousands of the traditional fruit.
Gurmak said he is 41 years old and has never witnessed such kind of prolonged rains in Sukker where weather mostly remains dry and hot.
Now a days the weather is very pleasant due to long duration of rain spell, but this respite from scorching heat is suitable for humans and not for dates which needs dry and hot weather at time of ripening, he opined.
About estimates of losses, Gurmak guessed that usually annual production consists of around 2.5 to three million bags (40 kg each) of dry date (chowara) which may reduce to 1.5 million bags this year.
“Most of the losses due to damage to crop has been suffered by traders who had made advance payments to orchid owners as booking for purchase of their produce at suitable time,” shared Hub-e-Ali Jatoi, President of Dates Market in Sukker Division comprising of more than 250 shops.
The number of daily laborer associated with dates business in the area both men and women are in thousands who all suffered due to reduction in production.
Losses are part of business and we face time and again due to damage to crop due to bad weather or disease, but this year’s loss is unprecedented and enormous, says Hub-e-Ali.
Damage to dates crop will also have negative impact on trade of the commodity which is exported to different countries including neighbouring India, Bangladesh and Nepal, he added.
Pakistan is the world’s fifth-largest producer of dates and our exports are estimated around $107.4 million worth of fresh or dried dates to the world.
According to a report of Pakistan Meteorological Department published in press on August 3. 2022, Pakistan broke a 61 year record of rain in the month of July this year.
The country received 181 percent more rain than usual while Baluchistan received 450 percent more rainfall than usual.
The Sindh province recorded 308 percent more rain than usual, Punjab 116 percent, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 30 percent and Gilgit Baltisan 32 percent.
“Climatic changes in shape of sever storms, untimely and erratic rains, hail storms are badly impacting different crops in the country and this year we have witnessed a drastic decline of 50 percent in annual mango yield,” disclosed Waheed Ahmad, Patron in Chief All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association.
Talking to APP, Waheed Ahmad informed that the total production of mango showed a decline from 1.8 million to 0.9 million tonnes due to early heat wave in the country.
This drop of 50 percent in mango production forced exporters to cut their export target for current year from 150,000 tons to 125,000 tons, a reduction of 25000 tonnes.
Waheed suggested for adopting of good agriculture practices besides focusing on research and development for promotion of drip and sprinkle irrigation farming and other patterns that suit changing environment and climate.
Pakistan is among the top 10 countries in the world which are most vulnerable from impacts of climate change and if proper heed was not given to mitigating measures losses to life, property, agriculture and livelihood will continue to be faced by people with unusual increase on annual basis, Waheed warns.