KP’s strawberry growers seek financial package to mitigate losses

PESHAWAR: Amid the coronavirus lockdown across the country and the closure of Pak-Afghan, strawberry growers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are facing heavy losses as the country’s supply chain is in disarray and farmers are unable to transport their produce to markets.

They say there is no demand for strawberry in the local markets and this sudden drop in demand is hurting hundreds of strawberry farmers in Mardan, Charsadda and Bajaur districts from where, in the past, it was exported to Afghanistan and other cities of the country.

According to farmers, with new varieties the strawberry production has much increased while the strawberry of three KP districts has high demand in Afghanistan and Sindh province in normal days.

Noman Khan, a strawberry grower in Charsadda, told Pakistan Today that strawberry crop is badly damaged due to the virus and the recent heavy rains. He said the fruit is sold not only locally, but it generates high demand in Karachi, Lahore and Afghanistan.

“Unlike other crops the strawberry is perishable and has a short life. In KP, there is also no storage facility available where the fruit can be stored it for good days.”

Khan added traders from Afghanistan would purchase strawberry on almost double prices in the past. “It is now difficult to sell it Rs100 per kg in the local market due to which all farmers are in heavy loss,” he lamented.

Farmers have demanded the federal and provincial governments to provide them with a special package to mitigate the loss the virus has incurred to them.

Unlike industries, which can stop production, farmers cannot ask their crops to stop production for better days, they say and seek more attention of the government.

According to the Agriculture Department, the advisory has been issued to farmers to prevent themselves from the coronavirus. These landowners are being provided seeds from Swat Extension Center and are being informed about strategies to protect their crops in the present situation.

The department says the government has not imposed any restrictions on fruits and vegetable markets to prevent food shortage and protect farmers from loss.

Department officials say with the support of the Swiss government, they (the department) are helping farmers to further protect the strawberry through marketing techniques.

The Department of Agriculture has appointed its representatives at the Union Council level to raise awareness among farmers during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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