By Khurram Hussain

As the winters are finally bowing out after unusual temperature trends this season, Pakistan is estimated to have suffered up to 10 per cent loss in the production of its main cold weather fruit, citrus, due to climate change.

Pakistan produces one of world’s best quality oranges and exports it to mainly Gulf market, where no other country matches its taste and standard.

Starting from Khanpur and Haripur in the north, to Sargodha in centre and Multan and Bahawalpur in South, the citrus belt provides one of the best agri-products in the country.

Winter economies of most of the farmers in central and southern Pakistan depend on the production and quality of oranges, which the experts say have been badly dented this year.

The rains which came later than the scheduled period this year reduced the production and quality of oranges.

Experts say that at least 25 per cent lesser oranges were produced this year and this production may decrease further in coming years.

“The rains did not come at the required time this year,” says doctor Pervez Mir, an expert on agriculture and water resources, who also has an extensive research on oranges.

“The water table under ground has also been lowered, which caused at least 25 per cent loss in the production of oranges,”.

“The previous year was hottest around the world. The temperature may rise to 2-4 degrees further in coming years which is very dangerous for our orange production,” said Mir adding that the time has arrived when Pakistani farmers should think about importing drought resistance variety orange seeds.

“Spain and US has very good draught resistance variety of oranges, which can sustain the heatwave in Pakistan. We should start its import now because the water table under ground is also lowering,” he said.

Mir added that spray of chemicals on crops like cotton and rice has also reduced the production of pulp fruit because honey bees which help in the production of pulps are being killed because of these sprays.

“Especially this year, the frost was very low. So both the quality and quantity of oranges was very bad. It not only reduced export of oranges up to 10 percent but also affected the local market,”.

“Local customers got even the worst quality of oranges this year because whatever good production farmers had, was exported,” he said.

“This crisis has worst hit the small farmers, who have lost their earnings,” said Mir adding that the government should encourage to bring the latest technology to improve this sector.

“If we can improve our quality of oranges, we can find a new market in China, where our fruit can reach the next day via CPEC,” he said.

Meanwhile, farmers continue to pay the price of climate change.

“This year was very bad for our fruit,” says Sheikh Arif as he inspects last fruits in his orchard in Bhalwal.

“The rains did not come when we needed it. It came when the fruit had almost dried, so the production was lost,”.

“The climate change has not only affected the exports and quality of fruit for local customers but also reduced the price for farmers. It’s become very hard to recover the costs from fruits now,” he said.

About Author: Khurram Hussain is Islamabad based journalist with an eye in human interest stories.