Lately, the Punjab government’s agriculture research arm, Barani Agriculture Research Institute (BARI), is focusing on investment in Northern Gilgit Baltistan. BARI, along with Pak Greenland Corporation, an overseas body, will launch Rs. 375 million ($2 million) cultivation projects in Punjab and GB. With this venture, Pakistan is looking forward to Middle East exports.
The land of Pakistan especially Gilgit Baltistan and Punjab is ideal for the growth of blueberries. In addition to that, the land is also suitable for the most heat tolerant blackberries. However, the country, unfortunately, has still not realized the full potential of its lands. This is why BARI has now aimed to collaborate with investment companies. It focuses on initiating berry farming projects which will help Pakistan economically.
Varieties Imported From California
Milad Ul Salman expresses his opinion about this initiative. “We are introducing the project to cultivate blueberries and blackberries across 25 acres of land in multiple areas of Gilgit-Baltistan”. Furthermore, the Pak Greenland Corporation manager stated, “The wild varieties of berries are found in abundance in the region, which are mostly consumed domestically and not considered for exports”. The concerned agricultural bodies aim to generate good quality produce with this investment. “The varieties we want to produce have been imported from California in the United States. Most of our dried fruits are exported to the gulf countries. We also plan to export these berries to the United Arab Emirates and its neighboring states”, says the manager.
Salman further said that his company had acquired barren land in remote areas to encourage the production of fruits that could be used for commercial purposes. “We have been working on blackberry production for the last six years while we have spent about two years on blueberries on a trial basis,” he expresses. “After getting encouraging results, we are now moving to launch the project to produce both varieties of berries at a large level through flower pot and drip irrigation cultivation”.
A similar project has been initiated in Punjab. “We have submitted a proposal to scale up the project to the Punjab Agricultural Research Board for approval”, says Aqeel Feroze who is the project director. “We hope it will be approved by June since the cultivation season begins in July”.
Government Support Required
Some other fruits that have been imported for cultivation include peaches and figs. After the successful cultivation of blackberries, farmers are being motivated to plant other crops. The fruit exporters in GB are also hoping for government assistance to prevent shipment delays. There is also a need to ensure timely delivery of produce to Islamabad Airport. “Berries are perishable items,” says Salman “Our fresh fruits are exported from Islamabad, but it takes a lot of time to deliver the shipment to the capital due to lack of trucks. We need the government’s support to cut the waiting period at Islamabad Airport to make timely shipments”.