By Sultan Shoaib

GILGIT, March 26 (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
“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.