PESHAWAR (APP): The economy of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is largely dependent on dry fruits and agriculture as the area is famous for its almonds, apricots, cherries and other dry fruits all over the world .
Almond is the most popular fruit of Gilgit Baltistan. Its many varieties are grown in all districts of GB. Each type has its own specific characteristics.
As Gilgit-Baltistan produces about 120,650 tons of almonds per year and their export can yield billions of rupees for farmers.
Almonds produced in GB, both fresh and dried, are famous for their rich taste and organic nature. It is because of the pollution free environment and abundant water resources, which make the area ideally suitable for natural growth of fruits and vegetables.
Healthy eating of organic and fresh fruits like almonds, and having ideal natural environment are the reasons of the highest life expectancy for the GB people in Pakistan.
During the months of March, April and May the valley is full of flowers and panoramic views. The view of Gilgit from Jutial in spring is incredible, though it remains spectacular at any time of the year.
Almonds get ready in the month of August and then dried in sun before they are sent to the markets across the country. Tons of almonds transported between Gilgit and other parts of the country by road, take several hours to reach the destination.
Due to the long and difficult road journey fruits worth billions of rupees are destroyed and cannot be dispatched to various markets of the country.
Muhammad Alam, the trader from Gilgit who ships almonds to other parts of country, said,”The business community of the area believes that as the aviation industry has become advanced globally, the government should invest in modern facilities so that the issue of flight cancellations to and from GB can be overcome.
“Gilgit Baltistan can become a business hub between Pakistan and China in the wake of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and can be used as a gateway between both the countries. If this were materialized the GB people could get huge benefits by exporting the finest quality of almonds and other dry fruits to China,” he added.
Muhammad said at least twice a week flights between Gilgit and the Xingjian province of China along with an air cargo facility would not only promote Pakistan-China trade but would also provide access to new markets.
The main strength of the economy of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) depends largely on dry fruits and agriculture, but lack of interest of public sector organizations towards this paradise from where farmers of GB can earn billions of rupees through almond exports has remained neglected.
What is needed is establishment of proper infrastructure there.
The GB people can explore more opportunities in the agriculture sector and organic farming. Climate and abundant water resources make it ideally suitable for marvelous growth of this sector in Gilgit Baltistan, where immense potential is yet to be exploited.
Akramullah, who is incharge of fruits nurseries in Gilgit district, told APP said that prospects for foreign investment were equally high in almond as investors could launch ventures in the sector.
“Japan has agreed to provide around Rs 437 million in aid for promoting manufacture of value added fruit products in Gilgit-Baltistan,” he added.
From Gilgit Baltistan (GB), the nearest large cities are Rawalpindi/Islamabad with road distance of nearly 600 kms. Under these conditions one of the options available is to process the fruit at the area to increase its shelf life and to add to its value, so that it may be transported economically.
Lack of facilities, such as non-availability of export quality packaging material, quality control for grading and facilities for washing and disinfection also need to be developed.
The development of roads and infrastructure in Gilgit-Baltistan is also on the cards as investors are keen to invest in construction of all weather airports in Gilgit and Skardu. Investment in Gilgit-Baltistan will not only be beneficial for the area but will also help strengthen the country’s economy.