ISLAMABAD: In Pakistan, grapes usually hit the market slightly ahead of the winter season. Growing grapes is way more profitable than harvesting wheat.
Sardar Karam Khan, a farmer of village of Attock district saw his profits rise to Rs1.3 million this year by growing grapes. Harvesting the fruit on his nine acres of land where he once harvested 200 maunds of wheat valued at Rs 250,000, he says.
However, the Potohar plateau has now emerged as the largest producer of grapes during peak summer season. This year, grapes hit the markets at the beginning of Ramazan in June.
Liaquat Ali, another farmer of village in Attock district, has grown grapes in his vineyard spreading over three acres of land. These grapes have been grown for raisins, table grapes and non-alcoholic grape juice.
`King`s Ruby` and some more In the 1980s, Italians in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) surveyed various ecological zones in Pakistan with respect to grape production.
Potohar region was one of the selected regions where scientists recommended varieties like `flame seedless`, King`s Ruby`, Perlett and NARC black.
In 2012, USAID Agribusiness project evaluated the activity and decided to support the sector through establishment of vineyards over an area of 90 acres.
Since 2014, the project supported growers in terms of material and technical trainings.
Explaining about the types of grapes produced in the Potohar region, Project Manager USAID Agribusiness Ghani Khan told Dawn, `The grape plants were of American origin, and were researched at NARC and developed to suit the climatic conditions of Potohar region.
`Grapes orchards are being developed on large scale in 291 acres of land in Talagang, Chakwal, Fatehjang, Hazro, Attock and Rewat,` Khan said.
Under the project, USAID also provided exotic varieties of `vitro black` and `sugra one` to 50 farmers.
He added that the project has now entered into the third year and the response of farmers is very encouraging since they earn more from grapes than f rom growing wheat.
Harvesting help Scott Hocklander, USAID`s Director of Economic Growth and Agriculture, noted thatgrape growing provides a special advantage for farmers in the Potohar region.
`The grape farming in this region enjoys a competitive advantage, since Potohar grapes are harvested before the monsoon season, when grapes from other parts of the country are not yet available,` Hocklander said.
According to Sardar Karam, the grape plants start bearing fruits in March, and by June harvesting begins.
Last year, grape production was low but this year it is in full bloom.
Sardar Karam says he is not familiar with marketing and sold the entire crop to a contractor at a total value of Rs1.3m.
He hopes to develop marketing system himself for the next year`s crop.
The USAID agribusiness project claims that beneficiaries have enjoyed income up to Rs700,000 per acre which is 14 times more than the average income from wheat crop per acre.
As the harvesting of grapes crop was about to close last week, USAID hosted a training session for the farmers that introduced new techniques to produce grapes and ways to connect with merchants, processors, and exporters to better prepare their crops for market.
Courtesy: Amin Ahmed 7/26/2015 Daily Dawn