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February 13, 2021

Growers smell disaster as rose yields drop in Sindh

Business

February 13, 2021

HYDERABAD: Flower producers in Hyderabad district, the main hub of gardens, were clueless about the reasons of declining rose productivity.

Some senior florists have discovered increasing salinity in the soil, which they thought might have contributed to the loss. Other growers believed that floodwater after rains stood too long on the land, which might have affected the soil fertility, as extra water weakens plant roots and impacts productivity.

Majeed Mallah, a small-scale flower grower and trader, residing near Hatri, said, “Previously, we used to get at least 50-60 kilogram per acre gulab (rose) product in this season, which now drops to hardly 7-10 kg/acre, only.”

The beginning of February always used to bring hope for rose producers. But this time the situation seems different in terms of both yield and prices, he said.

“The land being used for flower cultivation is quite fertile. Farmers produce around seven-eight varieties of flowers, including fine quality of roses, which attract urban markets in the entire country.” Now, the emerging situation might hamper the growers and traders, associated with the flower business.

“Farmers do not expect a lot during wintering cold and get low prices, but during normal days, especially from February to April producers and traders enjoy more products with reasonable rates,” Mallah explained, adding that the current year, overall productivity was disappointing.

The rain flood, which started in September 2020, had ruined at least 40 percent of rose gardens out of around 12,000-13,000 acres only in the main Hatri area, leaving farmers in a helpless situation. The flood also disrupted the cultivation process of some other next immediate crops.

Many farmers have again transplanted rose gardens on the same land to continue the traditions set by their forefathers long ago. These new planted gardens might take one year to give product.

Rose plants once planted, survive for a long time and give yields throughout the year.

Manzoor Kalhoro, another grower, producing rose on his piece of land, attributed low yield to soil degradation, which happened as a consequence of excessive use of chemical fertiliser.

He said traditional growers always preferred to use farmyard manure to maintain soil fertility and get more yield. But now traders take all the gardens on contract for two-three years and use chemical input to get maximum product.

“The use of chemical input has destroyed soil fertility, causing problems,” he said, while pointing out increasing water-logging in flower producing areas as another spreading problem.

He said that growers and traders both needed to be cautious, and immediately pay attention to the problem, as the soil might soon not produce enough roses to maintain the flower business.

Traders, besides bearing the cost of picking, packing and transportation, also take care of plants to increase per acre yield. For that they resort to heavy use of chemical fertilisers, thus affecting long-term fertility of the soul. Since growers lease out their pieces of land to the rose traders, they end up with degraded soil.

Farmers with years of experience and exposure said that almost all food and cash crops have been affected by the emerging challenges and were giving low yield.

Currently, rose producers get Rs45-60/kg for flowers, which producers say does not recover the cost of picking, packing and transportation. They claim that the traders have a monopoly.

For example, previously whenever traders saw a decline in prices they used to preserve the product by drying it in fields and on rooftops of warehouses to earn more value in the international market.

Now, traders also bought fresh flowers for drying to earn more value through export, instead of selling fresh products in the local markets.

In 2020, when the government had imposed lockdown to stop the spread of Covid-19, many traders breached their traditional contracts due to closed transportation and markets. This resulted in huge losses for the growers.

This year, they were hoping to recover from the losses incurred last year; however, lower yields would make it very difficult for many of the growers to even recover production cost.

Hyderabad district situated near the riverine forests along the left bank of the River Indus is favourable for producing fine quality of flowers, mainly roses. The product reaches all the major towns and cities of the entire country, besides Karachi, Sukkur, Larkana and other parts of Sindh province.

Many urban traders take floral gardens on contracts for two-three years on Rs100,000 or more cost per acre. The traders manage to take care with water and bear the entire cost.

Roses are sensitive, which neither survives in extreme heat nor biting cold. It requires pleasant weather to give higher yield.

For the farmers, it seems the difficulties are not going to end any time soon. They have experienced low yield a few years back too, but losing soil fertility in their rose gardens was a new phenomenon.

A large number of people, both men and women from neighbouring villages are associated with the flower business. Some are into trade, picking, packing, loading and taking care of the flower crop. They expressed fear regarding loss of livelihood, and said that if the situation persists, and rose yield does not go up they would be out of work.