The Matta tehsil in particular is rich in apple orchids. There are about 30 different types of apples grown in the valley, but King Star (French), Red Golden, White Kolo, Kala Kolo, Sota and Rail Gala are the most renowned among them. The tehsil is also home to well-established markets where consumers and traders from different regions come to purchase apples. Orchards spread on about 3,000 hectares of land and contribute a sizable share to the country’s fruit market. The fruit is usually picked starting August up until the last week of September. The harvesting season is currently at its peak and farmers and orchid owners are busy picking the fruits of their labour across the valley. Following this, some apples are packaged and transported to different cities while others are left on the field to further ripen. Farmer Didan Gul explained about 20 kilogrammes of apples are packed
in each box. Citing unofficial data, he claimed Swat use to produce around 0.6 million tons of apples annually until a few years back. “It currently produces only about 0.1 million tons,” he added. Commenting on the decrease in production, Swat Fruit and Vegetable Marketing Association President Rehmat Ali said, “The orchards in the valley were destroyed during the military operation against militants and those remaining were washed away by the floods. It caused losses worth a billion rupees and we received no help from the government or the department of agriculture.” He complained the government was not taking interest in promoting the production of apples and was not facilitating farmers in terms of providing standard pesticides and necessary training to adapt to new horticultural trends on managing orchids. “People are now more
interested in maintaining peach orchards instead because it has a higher return in exchange for lower inputs of production.” Farmer Safdar Khan said increasing apple exports could earn the country substantial foreign exchange. The recent price of one kilogramme of apple ranges between Rs50 and Rs300, he added.
“The government should keep a check on retailers selling substandard agricultural chemicals, including pesticides, because it is one of the factors contributing to the decrease in apple orchards,” said farmer Fazal Wahab.