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January 23, 2018
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In terms of exports, guava holds potential to become orange

Business

January 23, 2018

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HYDERABAD: Guava, which is popular across the country for its unique fragrance and taste, is gaining momentum in terms of cultivation in Sindh province.

In Larkana, the guava hub of the province, area under the cultivation of the fruit has increased to 4400 acres of land in this district alone. The cultivation of this nutritious winter fruit is also rising in rice producing areas like Qambar, Dadu, Khairpur, Naushehro Feroz, Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas districts. Karachi’s Malir was also one of the main guava producing areas in the past.

Larkana grows eight varieties namely, Thadharami, local Sindhi, Riyali, Ramzani, Shamlo, Golo, Benazir and Hyderabadi. All of them have great demand across the country. Traveling to guava orchards, one may see labourers picking, grading, packing, and loading the produce on transport vehicles under the supervision of mostly senior workers. Yaseen Bhutto, a grower and trader overseeing the work at all levels, said it had been a great season because of better price.

The price depends on the quality of the produce, which is traditionally graded into three qualities. The price of the best quality ranges from Rs1,800-2,000/bag of 15-20 kg. Guavas, grown in Sindh, are sold in all major cities of the four provinces.

It is said to be the third largest fruit after mango and banana in the province. Presently, it is available at Rs80-100/kg in local markets. The guava orchard workers’ wages vary, depending on their skills to handle the product.

Zakir Muhammad Mahesar, in-charge Guava Research Station (GRS) at Naudero, Larkana district, claims the center has helped farmers a great deal by introducing new varieties and guiding them on how to build nurseries, prepare plantation, properly use irrigation water, and increase the utility of farmyard manure.

The GRS, spread over 14 acres, was established in 1989 in Larkana district to promote this valuable fruit. The center takes pride in introducing the variety of guava known as “Benazir. The GRS is said to be working on other varieties as well, while assisting the producers of the area at every level.

Also, the center, in collaboration with the provincial government, is organising “Guava Festival 2018” in February’s first week. It will be the first ever event of its kind in the country. Expecting a strong response, Mahesar is upbeat that a large number of people associated with research, academia, agriculture, industries, and traders will show up at the festival. “This mega event will definitely bridge the gap within producers, traders and industries to promote this fruit,” he said.

All varieties of guava have a different value in terms of production. Productivity ranges between 50 and 100 maunds/acre (40kgs). Each tree can produce from 30 kg to 100 kg of fruit, depending on the conditions of weather, soil and water. There are around 50-55 trees on one acre of land.

The product comes into market in the end of December and is available till February. Traders believe winter fruit crops have a lot of advantage over summer ones. It is interesting to note that Guava also has a season that last from July through September, but it is preferably grown in winter because hot weather, low rates, and heat-related damages cause problems for producers/traders, who can’t afford losses.

The GRS officials believe it is a sensitive fruit as the crop always faces viral attacks at its initial stage, mostly in December. Growers believe this disease is a result of ‘fruit fly’ attack and spray pesticides on the crop. Originally, farmers used to employ farmyard manure, but now they prefer touse chemical fertiliser, to strengthen the plants as well as product. Old school farmers still use manure to grow plants throughout the nursery stage till maturity for fruiting.

Talking about the potential of exporting guava, researchers suggest there should be developed processing zones for value-addition to attract world markets. It is because the local and export markets demand guava pulp instead of entire fruit.

The trend of manufacturing juices, nectars, and drinks is also growing fast and could be beneficial for producers and traders.

According to growers, the feasibility reports on increasing guava production and possibilities of establishing processing units have been conducted, but the stakeholders are unaware of any progress on the same.

Dr AW Gandahi at Department of Soil Science at Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam, suggests that balanced nutrient management will improve normal growth, produce good fruit, and ultimately eliminate deficiency symptoms in guava. “Otherwise, the issue of low productivity is only because of lack proper nutrition,” Gandahi said. On the basis of evaluation of the nutrient status of guava orchards belonging to four talukas of district Larkana i.e., Bakrani, Dokri, Larkana, and Ratodero, Gandahi found that out of four micronutrients (copper, zinc, manganese, and iron), only zinc was found in low range in taluka Larkana’s guava orchard soils.

In his understanding, all orchards were found low in organic matter, nitrogen, and phosphorus, while amounts of potassium were adequate. “Soils of guava orchards were found deficient in various nutrients and should be fertilised in order to restore the needed nutrients,” he said.

Looking to global market, the researcher says, presently, guavas are grown for fresh consumption, but the world market for fresh fruit is quite small. Despite its immense export potential, the government has yet not taken any initiative to support the growers. To make the most of this important fruit, the authorities should offer incentives to producers and build more research centers, cold storages, processing units etc across the guava growing districts in the province.

Anyway, despite these difficulties the growers continue to produce guava, which is a source of livelihood to a large number of people in rural Sindh.

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