The Apples of Balochistan

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Apple is one of the major contributors to the agricultural economy of Balochistan province. Apple accounts for 52% of the total fruits produced in the province and its traded value in 2018-19 was recorded to be about 29.4 billion PKR.

There are about 18,000 people working as farmers within the apple value chain in Balochistan. In addition, actors are involved in production through picking, packaging, transport and selling them to various markets across Pakistan and within Balochistan. The PAFAID initiative aims to pilot improved practices among value chain actors in the five major apple producing districts including Quetta, Killah Saifullah, Killah Abdullah, Pishin and Kalat. In the inception phase of the project, populations of the various value chain actors, including farmers, middlemen, wholesalers, retailers and cold storage facilities were estimated with the support of Balochistan Agriculture Department and a proportional sample was drawn for a baseline survey. The following visualization shows the geographical spread of the various value chain actors reached in PAFAID’s initial survey.

Geographical distribution of apple value chain actors

Source: PAFAID survey

Cold Storages

Anecdotal evidence suggests that women and youth are actively involved in the apple value chain. However, they often remain economically excluded or do not earn the same wage as their male colleagues. The Global Wage Report 2018/2019 of the International Labour Organization (ILO) found that women constitute 90% of the bottom 1% of wage earners in Pakistan. The report also highlights the wage and gender wage gap situation in Pakistan. According to the report, Pakistan has the second highest overall average hourly gender pay gap of the 73 countries for which comparable data are available. In particular, the gender pay gap for Pakistan was identified to be 34%, which is more than double of the global average.

Different varieties of apples such as Tor Kulu (Red Delicious), Shin Kulu (Golden Delicious), Kaja, Amri and Mashadi are produced in 5 selected districts of Balochistan.

Apple farmers are also threatened by climate change, the biggest challenge of our time. According to a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS) (2015), many regions of the province have been experiencing drought since 2013 due to lower precipitations rates (which is one fourth of the usual rainfall i.e. 200-250 mm) and mass installation of tube wells. Extensive pumping of groundwater and poor groundwater governance has resulted in a steep decline in water tables, particularly in the upland Balochistan where majority of apple production is carried out. Climate change also causes extreme weather events like floods across Balochistan.

The degree of impact brought by drought to the districts of Balochistan is presented below. The districts chosen for the PAFAID project are also labelled.

Farmers lose up to 40% of their production due to pre- and post-harvest losses. Pre-harvest losses mainly occur during production as a result of fruit dropping, pest and diseases attack, drought like conditions, high temperature and inappropriate variety selection. The extent of pre-harvest losses reported by apple producers and pre-harvest contractors was 5-10%, however, recent locust attacks can cause even higher losses for the sector. Post-harvest losses include losses during harvesting, fruit picking, handling, packaging, transportation and processing. According to the focus group discussion conducted as part of the PAFAID data collection, the extent of post-harvest losses varied between 20-30% of total production.

Various value chain actors, particularly farmers also lack the required technologies and technical know-how on adequate on-farm practices to maximize their own revenue and improve their own livelihood. Lack of resources and training often results in additional losses in the post-harvest phase. As it was observed during the fieldwork for PAFAID surveys with farmers, only a small fraction of the respondents, on average 5.1% of farmers, had received any training on the application of improved production practices.

At this stage, apples from Balochistan are mostly sold in national markets with less than 1% apples being marketed abroad. In the local markets, commission agents are playing an important role to move products to larger Pakistani cities. Data from PAFAID’s initial survey also shows the location of the commission agents to whom the apples from the five selected districts and other apple producing districts are sold.

UNIDO works on the enhancement of the productive and compliance capacities of relevant actors in the apple value chain in Balochistan so as to contribute to poverty reduction through economic growth. If you want to learn more about our project and hear about upcoming events, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter.