GILGIT (Agencies): Gilgit Baltistan, with its breathtaking beauty and lush cherry orchards, has emerged as a producer of high-quality fruit that now finds its way to international markets.

The cherries from Gilgit Baltistan are renowned for their sweet and tangy flavor, juicy texture, and impressive nutritional value. The cherry-producing regions of Hunza, Nagar, Yasin, Phundar, and Nomal benefit from an ideal climate and fertile land, resulting in top-quality cherries. Gilgit Baltistan has firmly established itself as a premier fruit-producing region.

In a significant milestone, Gilgit Baltistan recently dispatched its inaugural shipment of fresh cherries to China, marking a crucial moment in its agricultural exports. This achievement stems from the Plant Health agreement signed between the two countries in 2022. China’s cherry market, valued at $3 billion, demands a staggering 350,000 tons of cherries annually, presenting a lucrative opportunity for Pakistani growers.

Arman Shah, CEO of Hashwani Group and owner of Gilgit Rahim Abad’s largest cherry farm (approved by Chinese Customs), underscores the benefits of the Pakistan-China partnership in agricultural exports. The approval of Gilgit Baltistan’s cherry orchards by Chinese customs attests to the region’s high standards. Shah’s cold storage facility ensures a steady supply of exports even beyond the season.

Gilgit-Baltistan’s cherries are already making their mark in the Middle East, with export prices ranging between Rs 700-1,000 per kg this year. Over 100 cherry orchards, along with a cold storage and packing center in Gilgit’s Rahimabad, have received registration with China’s General Administration of Customs. This certification enables growers from Gilgit Baltistan to command better prices for their cherries. While the region currently produces about 5,000 tons of cherries each season, access to the Chinese market is expected to boost production.

Experts and cherry growers express optimism about the future of cherry exports. Dr. Fatima, a horticulture expert from Gilgit Baltistan, emphasizes the economic boost and the promotion of the region’s agricultural heritage. Muhammad Hassain, a local cherry farmer, eagerly anticipates success in China and beyond. However, he stresses the need to educate local farmers in modern cherry production techniques to enhance fruit exports.

Pakistan’s cherry exports could further thrive through bilateral agreements with other countries, similar to the one between China and Pakistan. Raja Mir Wazir Mir, a visionary farmer, switched from potato crops to over 500 cherry plants in 2020—a move that paid off handsomely, increasing his annual income to Rs 0.5 million.

Inspired by Mir’s success, numerous farmers in Gilgit-Baltistan have embraced cherry cultivation, contributing to economic growth and development in the region. Despite this success, local residents express concern as the price of cherries in local markets has surged to Rs 600 per kilogram, up from Rs 300 just a year ago.

By Media

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