CHITRAL, Oct 10: Growers in Garam Chashma valley of Chitral are happy to have a bumper crop of potato.
The harvesting season is in full swing with hundreds of traders coming to growers to purchase the root vegetable.
The local growers had turned to potato cultivation many years ago when a non-governmental organisation working on agriculture found the area soil to be highly productive for it. Earlier, they grew wheat and barley.
Waqar Ahmed, an agriculturist attached with a NGO, said the per acre yield of potato in the valley was the highest in potato-producing areas of the country and that the local potato seed was of very high quality and was free of virus.
“Now, all local residents grow potato and earn a handsome amount of money every year. This has considerably reduced poverty from the area,” he said. The agriculturist said during the current year, an extraordinary rich crop had been registered in the valley due to friendly climatic conditions, which were likely to increase produce by over 25 percent.
Trader Haji Shuab of Gujrat added that in Garam Chashma Bazaar that the local species of potato was in high demand in the national market for its rich flavour, large size and capacity to stay fresh for a long period of time.
He said the potato produced in Garam Chashma valley monopolised national market for at least three months of the year and that this year, it could be four months due to bumper crop.
“I have been coming to this valley for five years to purchase potato,” he said. The trader said not only Garam Chashmal valley was fast becoming a good market of potato but also its adjacent valley, Karimabad, produced beans of superb quality.
He said local farmers manipulated potato price and that the price of the root vegetable was Rs5,000 per 120kg bag against that of Rs2,500 last year.
Local growers said their income had increased considerably since they had begun cultivating potato after abandoning wheat and barley.
Farmer Mohammad Hussain said he had been cultivating potato in all his four fields for five years and earned a handsome amount of money to meet domestic needs and buy seeds, pesticides and fertilisers for next crop. “Two of my three sons used to work as labourer in Peshawar but now, they cultivate potato with me. All this has changed the family’s lot for the better,” he said.
The farmer said like others in the field, he had to purchase potato seed from the market at a very high rate only because there’s no cold storage facility in the valley to preserve potato as seed. He said better management of potato seed supply would turn growers prosperous.–Dawn