Farmers hope to reap fruits as China opens doors to Pakistani cherry trade

Farmers pack freshly-harvested cherries at a farm in Pakistan's northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, on June 15, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Xinhuanet)
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Updated 25 May 2023
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Farmers hope to reap fruits as China opens doors to Pakistani cherry trade

  • Delegation of Chinese businesspersons last week visited northern Pakistan to sign MoUs on importing cherries from Pakistan
  • Gilgit-Baltistan official says region’s climate ideal for fruit’s production, says over 8,000 metric tons of cherries harvested annually

Farmers in Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region hope to double their incomes and profit margins as China has for the first time allowed the import of cherries from the northern region and other cities in neighboring Pakistan.

Last week, an eleven-member delegation of Chinese businesspersons visited GB to sign several memorandums of understanding (MoUs) to facilitate cherry trade between the two countries. The visit followed one by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to China in November last year in which the trade of cherries came under discussion.

Pakistan and China reopened the historic Khunjerab Pass, located 5,000 meters above sea level, last month after it was closed for three years due to the coronavirus pandemic. The pass, located in the country’s north, is a major trading route that links Pakistan to China and serves as an important gateway to South Asia and Europe for Chinese imports and exports.

Dotted with large swathes of green meadows, picturesque valleys and mountains and beautiful waterfalls, GB’s mild to cold climate has allowed it to become the region’s highest producer of cherries. Over the last three decades in particular, the cherry has emerged as GB’s main cash crop, and seen a sharp increase in production. 

In 2001, the total volume of cherries produced in the region was 2,678 tons. Today, according to Javed Akhtar, a deputy director at GB’s agriculture department, over 8,000 metric tons of cherries are harvested annually in GB, generating around Rs600-700 million in revenue each year. 

GB’s climate was “very favorable” for cherry production and the region produces 14 varieties of the fruit, he said.

“Recently, China has agreed to import cherry here. So, unquestionably, it will help boost our economy,” Akhtar told Arab News.

“If we succeed in fulfilling all protocol and phytosanitary [relating to plant diseases] requirements [of China] for the border trade, the firm gate price will more than double …We are at the shortest distance and we can safely escort [the cherries to China].”




In an undated photo, cherries can be seen in an orchard in the Gilgit district of the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region in Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Farman Karim, photographer).

Export protocols for China include strict conditions on quarantine pest and cold treatment facilities, which must be met by Pakistani cherry orchards, packaging plants, and refrigerated warehouses, Akhtar added.

Cherries began to be grown in this region during British colonial rule but a more improved variety of the fruit was developed during the 1980s in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

With cherries from Pakistan enjoying zero tariffs when exported to China under the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement, the cherry industry in Pakistan has the potential to grow further, Akhtar said, adding that profit margins could more than double. 

Additionally, under a previous government-led tree plantation drive known as the Ten Billion Trees Tsunami Programme, the government distributed free of cost cherry saplings among farmers in the last three years, helping them grow production.

“So, in the next four to five years, the overall production volume of cherry will be double or triple [in GB],” Akhtar said.

Farmers, who previously sold cherries in Pakistani markets only, are now looking forward to trading with China.

“I am associated with this sector for the last 15 to 17 years,” Irfan Ali Shah, a Hunza valley-based farmer, told Arab News. “Earlier we used to sell [cherries] in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi markets. Now, we are hopeful that it will export to China and our income will be doubled.”

Distance-wise, China is closer to GB than Pakistan’s capital Islamabad and other cities, Shah added.

“For the first time, our cherry will go to China and we will earn more profit from the Chinese market,” Shahneel, a Gilgit-based cherry trader who identified himself only by his first name, said.

“When we export anything in the international market, the profit margin will also be better.”


Rain wipes out first Pakistan-New Zealand T20 after just two balls

Updated 18 April 2024
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Rain wipes out first Pakistan-New Zealand T20 after just two balls

  • Fast bowler Mohammad Amir returned to international cricket after nearly four years
  • Having come out of retirement last month, Amir’s participation was limited to just fielding

RAWALPINDI: Heavy rain caused the first Twenty20 international between Pakistan and New Zealand to be abandoned after just two deliveries in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
New Zealand skipper Michael Bracewell won the toss, which had also been delayed by 30 minutes, and opted to bat but no action was possible for two-and-a-half hours.
Umpires Ahsan Raza and Aleem Dar then announced a five-over-a-side game at 10:10 local time (9:10 GMT).
Pakistan paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi conceded two leg-byes to debutant Tim Robinson off the first ball before bowling the batsman with a sharp delivery off the next.
But as soon as the Pakistan fielders started celebrating the wicket, the rain returned to force an abandonment.
Fast bowler Mohammad Amir returned to international cricket after nearly four years, having come out of retirement last month, but his participation was limited to just fielding.
The 32-year-old retired in December 2020 after being dropped from the side but changed his mind last month and decided to restart his career, which had already been stalled by a match-fixing ban in 2010.
Pakistan handed T20I caps to batsman Usman Khan, spinner Abrar Ahmed and all-rounder Muhammad Irfan Khan, while Robinson debuted for New Zealand.
The remaining matches are in Rawalpindi on April 20 and 21 and in Lahore on April 25 and 27.
The series gives a chance to both teams to test their bench strength ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup to be held in June in the United States and the West Indies.
New Zealand are without nine key players, including skipper Kane Williamson, who are playing in the ongoing Indian Premier League.


Five custom officials among six killed in gun attack in northwest Pakistan

Updated 18 April 2024
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Five custom officials among six killed in gun attack in northwest Pakistan

  • Officials of the custom department attacked while on routine patrol in Dera Ismail Khan 
  • Latest killings come amid renewed violence in northwestern and southwestern regions

PESHAWAR: Six people, including five officials of the customs department, were killed and another wounded on Thursday when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, police and rescue officials said.
Officials of the custom department were out for routine patrol in Dera Ismail Khan city when their vehicle came under attack in the jurisdiction of Draban Police Station, Regional Police Officer Nasir Hussain Satti told Arab News.
“As terrorists started firing on the custom officials, the driver lost control of the vehicle,” Hussain said. 
“As a result, their car collided head-on with another vehicle coming from the opposite direction, leaving five officials and a girl dead on the spot while one person suffered injuries.”
KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur condemned the incident.
“The incident is extremely tragic. Police should take all measures to arrest elements behind the attack,” a statement quoting the chief minister said.
Aziz Dotani, a spokesman at DI Khan district’s Rescue 1122 service, said a relief team promptly rushed to the area to transport bodies to the nearest medical facility.
The latest killings come at a time of renewed militant violence in Pakistan’s northwestern and southwestern regions, especially after the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) called off its fragile, months-long truce with the government in November 2022.
While there has been a spike in militant attacks across the northwest and southwest of the country, militants have particularly attacked policemen in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in recent weeks. 
Earlier this month, unidentified gunmen shot dead a policeman in the restive North Waziristan tribal district. Separately, an official working with the provincial counterterrorism department and a senior cleric affiliated with the Jamiat Ulema Islam religious political party were shot dead in two separate incidents of “targeted killings” in the North Waziristan tribal district, according to police.
While no group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest killings, suspicion is likely to fall on the TTP, which has had a significant presence in KP before being driven out as a result of successive military operations over the years. Pakistan says the TTP is now mostly based in hideouts in neighboring Afghanistan, which the Taliban denies. 
Last month, seven Pakistani soldiers, including two army officers, were killed in a militant attack in North Waziristan, according to the Pakistani military. The attack led the Pakistani military to carry out rare airstrikes against suspected TTP hideouts inside Afghanistan on March 18, killing eight people. The strikes prompted Afghan forces to fire back at Pakistani soldiers along the border.
Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Nabi Omari has urged Pakistan and the banned TTP to start negotiations afresh but Pakistan has rejected the Afghan minister’s suggestion, urging Kabul to take action against militant groups operating from its soil.
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan have traded blame in recent months over who is responsible for the recent spate of militant attacks in Pakistan. 
Islamabad says the attacks are launched mostly by TTP members who operate from safe havens in Afghanistan. Kabul denies this and blames Islamabad for not being able to handle its own security challenges.


Seven killed in southwest Pakistan as heavy rains continue to wreak havoc nationwide

Updated 18 April 2024
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Seven killed in southwest Pakistan as heavy rains continue to wreak havoc nationwide

  • At least 33 people killed and 46 injured in various rain-related incidents in northwestern Pakistan
  • Pakistan is ranked fifth most vulnerable country to climate change according to Global Climate Risk Index

QUETTA: Seven people including a woman were killed in southwestern Pakistan as rains continue to wreak havoc in the South Asian nation ranked as the fifth most vulnerable country to climate change according to the Global Climate Risk Index.
Heavy rains in the last three weeks have triggered landslides and flash floods in several parts of Pakistan. 
On Thursday, seven people were killed in the southwestern Balochistan province, officials in the town of Chaman here the deaths took place said. 
“In the first incident a car drove into flood waters in Mashan Talab situated on the outskirts of Chaman,” Deputy Commissioner Chaman Raja Atthar Abbas told Arab News.
“Five men sitting inside the vehicle drowned in flood water while two people including a woman were killed after a mud wall fell on them on College road.” 
Torrential rains had caused “severe damage” in Chaman and its surrounding areas as dozens of mud house collapsed in the last two days of rains, Abbas added. 
Separately, at least 33 people were killed and another 46 injured in various rain-related incidents in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province in the last six days, the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said on Thursday.
Rains that began last Friday had completely destroyed 336 houses and partially damaged another 1,606 in different districts across the province, according to the PDMA.
The incidents occurred in Khyber, Upper and Lower Dir, Upper and Lower Chitral, Swat, Bajaur, Shangla, Karak, Tank, Mardan, Peshawar, Charsadda, Hangu, Battagram, Dera Ismail Khan and other districts.
“The deceased include 17 children, eight men, eight women, while the injured included 32 men, six women and eight children,” the PDMA said in its daily situation report on Thursday.
On Wednesday, the authority had warned of another spell of heavy rains in the province from April 17 till April 21, which could trigger landslides and flash floods.
In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild.


Amir returns to international cricket as New Zealand bat in first T20I

Updated 18 April 2024
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Amir returns to international cricket as New Zealand bat in first T20I

  • Amir retired in December 2020 after being dropped from the side but changed his mind last month
  • Fast bowler decided to restart his career, which had also been stalled by a match-fixing ban in 2010

RAWALPINDI: Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir returns to international cricket from an absence of almost four years after New Zealand won the toss in their rain-delayed first Twenty20 in Rawalpindi on Thursday.
The 32-year-old retired in December 2020 after being dropped from the side but changed his mind last month and decided to restart his career, which had also been stalled by a match-fixing ban in 2010.
Pakistan have handed T20I debuts to batter Usman Khan, spinner Abrar Ahmed and allrounder Muhammad Irfan Khan to gauge their bench strength ahead of June’s World Cup in the United States and the West Indies.
New Zealand, missing nine players due to the Indian Premier League, handed a T20I debut to batter Tim Robinson.
The remaining matches are in Rawalpindi on April 20 and 21 and in Lahore on April 25 and 27.
Teams:
Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Usman Khan, Abrar Ahmed, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi
New Zealand: Michael Bracewell (captain), Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Jacob Duffy, Dean Foxcroft, Ben Lister, Jimmy Neesham, Tim Robinson, Ben Sears, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi
Umpires: Ahsan Raza (PAK) and Aleem Dar (PAK)
Tv umpire: Faisal Afridi (PAK)
Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)


US says Pakistan’s prosperity and security remains a ‘top priority’

Updated 18 April 2024
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US says Pakistan’s prosperity and security remains a ‘top priority’

  • Blome’s comments come amid a spike in militant attacks in Pakistan
  • Pakistani finance chief has launched negotiations for a new IMF bailout 

KARACHI: US Ambassador Donald Blome met Pakistani Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar on Thursday and said the South Asian nation’s prosperity and security remained a ‘top priority’ for Washington.
Blome’s comments come amid a spike in militant attacks in Pakistan and while its finance chief is in discussions with the International Monetary Fund in Washington on a potential follow-up program to its nine-month, $3 billion stand-by arrangement.
“US Ambassador Donald Blome met today with Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar to discuss recent events in the region,” Acting US Mission Spokesperson Thomas Montgomery said. 
“Ambassador Blome conveyed the United States’ commitment to working with the government and people of Pakistan, underscoring that prosperity and security for Pakistan remains a top priority for the United States.”
Pakistan went to the polls on February 8 in a vote marred by a mobile Internet shutdown on election day, arrests and violence in its build-up and unusually delayed results, leading to accusations that the vote was rigged. 
However, the US has repeatedly said it will work with the new government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, though it has expressed concerns about reported election irregularities and urged a probe.
Although defense and key foreign policy decisions are largely influenced by Pakistan’s powerful military, Sharif will have to juggle relations with the US and China.
Islamabad has close economic ties to both the nations, which has put it in a tricky position as the two countries have embarked upon a costly trade war.
“From our perspective it has to be an and-and discussion,” finance minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said in an interview this week when asked how the Sharif government plans to conduct its trading relationships with the world’s two largest economies.
“US is our largest trading partner, and it has always supported us, always helped us in terms of the investments,” he said. “So that is always going to be a very, very critical relationship for Pakistan.”
“On the other side, a lot of investment, especially in infrastructure, came through CPEC,” he said, referring to the roughly 1,860-mile-long China-Pakistan Economic Corridor designed to give China access to the Arabian Sea.
Aurangzeb said there was a “very good opportunity” for Pakistan to play a similar role in the trade war as countries like Vietnam, which has been able to dramatically boost its exports to the US following the imposition of tariffs on some Chinese goods.
“We have already a few examples of that already working,” he said. “But what we need to do is to really scale it up.”
Militancy has also spiked in recent months, creating a major challenge for the new government, with religiously motivated groups like the Pakistani Taliban as well as ethnic separatists showing an enhanced ability to hit high-value targets.
In an attack last month that has so far been unclaimed, a suicide bomber rammed a vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers working on a hydropower project at Dasu in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, killing five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver. 
The Mar. 26 assault was the third major attack in little over a week on China’s interests in the South Asian nation, where Beijing has invested more than $65 billion in infrastructure projects as part of its wider Belt and Road initiative.