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Floods leave Chitral’s apple farmers in crisis

The recent floods have left farmers in different valleys of Upper Chitral in a crisis. These valleys are known for producing apple of superb quality and reporting high yields every year.

With the construction of roads in remote areas, availability of pesticides and development of marketing facilities, local farmers have switched from cultivating cereal crops over to growing apple trees during the last many decades and derived high dividend.

A number of fruit merchants in local market told Dawn that the produce of local apple species was very low during the current year as hundreds of acres of land with fruit trees were washed away by the devastating floods, which lasted a month starting in the middle of July.

Apple produce very low as hundreds of acres of farmland washed away in July Haji Ayaz, a fruit merchant, said the bumper produce of apple from the areas used to flood the market by the end of August every year but this year not a single vehicle carrying the fruit has reached the city as yet. He said his visit to many calamity-devastated villages of Brep, Karimabad, Mastuj and Terich was agonising for him to find that most farmers in the areas had lost homes and land to floods and were living in shelter.

“We used to visit villages a month before the fruit ripened to purchase the produce of the trees which we later harvested by our own and transported to the market,” he said, adding that this year we did go there only to sympathise with them.

Brep village in Yarkhun valley is known as the largest producer of both local and non-local apple species but it is one of the worst affected villages of the district. “This year, not a single number of apple-loaded vehicle will leave the village for market,” he said.

Sahib Wali, an official of agriculture department, said the devastating flood had washed away intake points of the irrigation channels throughout the valley disrupting the supply of water which resulted in the withering away of trees and cereal crops and apple trees were also affected which were on the verge of ripening. He said in some areas, including Brep village, the apple produce was at its highest this year but all that was spoiled by floods, while the only apple producing village spared was that of Booni.

The official said no flood hit the Booni village, the headquarters of Mastuj tehsil, and that it was the only village supplying apple to the local market but the quantity was too low to feed the national market this year. Wali said thousands of apple trees had been either washed away by floods in the affected areas or they had withered away in the absence of water, which was essential for its nourishment and survival.

“We will have to wait for five to 10 years to get back our apples,” he said. Alim Jan, another fruit merchant in Atalique Bazaar, said a good number of fruit merchants had purchased the produce of apple fruit trees in the calamity-affected areas well two months before the season but the trees were washed away by floods.

“This is a common practice to make payment in advance as prices spiral during the season,” he said, adding the people couldn’t demand their money back from the calamity-hit farmers.–Dawn

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