Agriculture extension and research work in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) will be upgraded in line with international standards to enable the region to meet phytosanitary and other certification requirements, said Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam.
Talking to Gilgit-Baltistan Agriculture Minister Kazim Meesam on Friday, he shared the government’s aim to turn the region into a hub of organic and high-value food production.
During the meeting, Imam reaffirmed the government’s resolve to provide all available resources for the development of agriculture sector of Gilgit-Baltistan besides promoting cultivation of high-value crops to enhance exports.
“We will focus on production of organic cherry and apricot,” he said. “Export of organic agricultural products will help tap new international markets, fetch foreign exchange for the country and increase local farm income.”
Citing figures, he said the total output of cherries in Pakistan was estimated at 350,000 tons per year. However, he lamented that 30-40% of the produce went to waste due to the absence of modern harvesting technology.
About 2 million tons of apricot was produced by the country, but 40% of the output was lost, he said.
Imam recommended the initiation of programmes to avoid post-harvest losses in high-value fruits and called for the installation of value addition and dehydration plants for fruits and vegetables on public-private partnership mode to enhance farm income.
He stressed the need for promoting organic farming and producing different kinds of jams, which was a viable option for the preservation of fruit pulp.
The minister also emphasised the need for extending support to the cottage industry of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Imam called for exploiting the existing potential of trout fish farming in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, citing that it was gaining momentum and 15 tons of frozen trout was being supplied to local markets.
The federal minister said it was for the first time the government was pushing the agriculture sector forward with great zeal.
On the occasion, Meesam said that the agriculture sector of Gilgit-Baltistan was in dire need of marketing support and investment in development and research work.
He said the agriculture extension department of the region had been provided Rs3.75 billion over the past four years to extend and step up its services.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2021.
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