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Kalash growers sell crops at low rates due to poverty

CHITRAL: The poor growers of common bean (Lobia) and walnut in Kalash valleys of Bumburate, Birir and Rumbur have sold their produce two months before the harvest to the non-local traders at half the market price in order to meet their daily expenses.

Assad Ali, working as social organiser with a poverty alleviation project in the district, said majority of the people of the valleys suffered from abject poverty who were always in need of hard cash. He said the common bean and walnut were their major sources of sustenance.

He said each Kalash family had a small landholding for cultivation and owned a number of trees of walnut and grapes, adding the people cultivated common bean which they sold for cash and kept a part of it for their own consumption.

The common bean is cultivated in March and harvested in September but the non-local traders thronged the valleys in the months of June and July to purchase the commodity in advance taking benefit of the poverty of the locals. Same is the case of walnuts which are harvested in October.

Mr Ali said this practice left the poor farmers with hardly any excess amount of the commodity at the time of harvest. He said the poor growers were forced to receive the money in advance from the traders.

He said the families having one or more persons in government service faced no cash crunch and thus did not have to sell their produce before time.

Zar Nadir, a shopkeeper in Rumbur valley, said one kilogramme of common bean cost Rs130 to Rs140 in the season while it was purchased at Rs60 to Rs70 in the month of March.

About walnut, he said its rate per kg was Rs200, but it was purchased even less than Rs100 per kg in the month of March.
In the case of potato in Garam Chashma valley and tomato in Karimabad valley, the growers have, however, upper hand as they have long broken the shackles of exploiters.

Growers in these areas get bumper crops and transport the produce to the national market, thus earning a handsome profit. Israruddin, an entrepreneur from Garam Chashma, said the growers in the valleys had become too smart and they were in a position to sell their produce at competitive prices to the traders from the national market.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2018

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