District Kohat of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is known for quality guava fruit production in abundance. Guava of this region is famous for its delicious taste and fragrance. But Kohat is not the only district of KP where it is major fruit crop as it is cultivated in Haripur and Bannu districts as well. Kohat provides 33% of total Guava production of the country. Major Guava farms are located on Jarwanda Road, Rawalpindi Road, Bannu Bypass, Mohammadzai and Kaghazai on Hangu road.
The fact that this Guava fruit basket of the country is now shrinking due to various factors is a rising concern among exporters and farmers alike!
It is encouraging news that due to various initiatives from the provincial and federal governments, the overall fruit exports are on the rise but declining portion of Guava in those exports, is concerning if not alarming. Despite the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan’s exports of fruits and vegetables witnessed a modest jump of 12.5% during fiscal year 2019-20, which fetched total $730 million but foreign exchange has a highest share of mangoes and oranges as compared to guavas of Kohat.
Total 780394kgs of guava were exported to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Qatar, UAE in 2015-2016. In 2020, exports of fruit brought $431.27 million but regrettably not even half from guava. Markets of Iran and Afghanistan were given special attention and the government tried to resolve the issues faced by the businessmen in exporting fruits to the bordering nations. Following the initial outbreak of the virus, countries around the world were in desperate need of fruits and vegetables to boost immunity and minimizing the ill effects of the pandemic.
In Kohat total Guava cultivated area was 65.6 thousand hectares and production 489.1 thousand tons during the year 2014-15. In 2016, guava orchards spread to 2800 acre and by last year it shrunk to 2300 acres of land, witnessing gradual decline in orchard area. Water shortage and insufficient use of fertilizers are among top reasons behind this decline. Poor marketing globally, lack of branding, lack of modern techniques etc. are contributing factors and most recent catalyst was lockdown due to COVID-19.
Farmers have been discouraged by all these developments. Nasir, a farmer belonging to Kohat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has been growing guava, orange for the last several years has been affected by lock down.
“I have no fruits to sell and the fruit plants also deteriorated,” Nasir said, adding “Last year, I earned approximately Rs500,000 from selling fruits, but this year I managed to earn only Rs40,000”.
Lack of cooperation from the government is also an important reason for decline in Guava harvest. Research institutes are not working on new plants or innovative seed varieties which can yield in better fruit produce. On the other end, there is no initiative taken for value addition to this fruit. The orchard owners are mainly poor local who cannot afford buying expensive machinery to preserve guava for longer hours to be used in by-products. Pakistan imports guava juices from abroad, especially from Malaysia by spending millions of rupees whereas these could easily be manufactured within the country.
Cutting of guava trees and conversion of orchards into real estate is a growing trend as it offers multifold profits. A framer by converting his orchard to a small township, in Kohat distric can earn up to Rs600,000 per marla while in the shape of orchards the market value of the same land is about Rs10,000 per marla.
Also, the locals have turned to alternative farming, primarily of oranges on a large scale which resulted in comparatively good returns for them, but in this process Kohat started losing its identity as the best guava-producing district of the country.
A guava tree takes five to six years to bear fruit due to which farmers lost interest in growing this fruit as a result the price of guava fruit records a decline as well as constant price hike.
There is a dire need for coordinated efforts to facilitate growers and revive the production of Kohati Guava.