MULTAN: The Punjab government’s Rs708 million ‘Diversification of High Value Cropping Through Promotion of Horticulture’ project aims to grow five top date varieties in the southern region of the province and eventually boost exports of the produce.
Under the project, the famed ‘Ajwa’ dates as well as Amber, Barhi, Khalas and a Californian variety called Medjool will be grown.
Muhammad Akhlaq, a researcher at the Horticultural Research Station (HRS), Bahawalpur, said on Friday that the project was launched under the guidance of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Secretary Agriculture Muhammad Mahmud.
The project was designed after experiments at the HRS Bahawalpur showed 100 per cent survival of the foreign plants and their fruit-bearing.
The tissue culture plants of these varieties would be developed in France, hardened in United Arab Emirates (UAE) and then will be imported into Pakistan.
“Upon reaching Punjab, these plants would be nurtured inside tunnels for their acclimatisation under controlled conditions at the HRS Bahawalpur before they are handed over to the date farmers. Initially, fine quality water would be given to these plants,” he added.
“The plants would be distributed among date farmers free of charge despite the fact that price of these premium plants is around Rs20,000,” Mr Akhlaq said.
“Each farmer would get 100 plants for an acre. The distribution of plants would be carried out through a draw and in return farmers would be required to provide the government at least 5-8 suckers or off-shoots per plant so that these top quality date varieties could be multiplied at home. It will help Pakistan develop a germplasm pool of premium quality dates,” he added.
Published in Dawn, June 17th, 2017