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Rs 0.50 million support grant approved for apple grading plant

LAHORE (November 13 2008): Agribusiness Support Fund (ASF) has approved a matching support grant of Rs 0.50 million for Balochistan Horticulture Co-operative Society (BHCS) as start up cost for operational expenses of an apple grading plant located in Quetta. The grading plant was lying non-functional for quite some time.

Recently, Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB) in collaboration with the Agriculture Department Balochistan revived this plant. The plant having a capacity of five tons per hour will be able to process around 6000MT per annum. The Plant had imported machinery while PHDEB added a locally made waxing unit with this plant and plans to attach a cold storage facility to it, ASF sources told Business Recorder on Wednesday.

The sources further stated that it was a part of planning to set up a society, which should take this plant on lease for the facility of local apple growers and run it for two to three years initially on experimental basis. The Fund has approved the grant for initial cost as first phase, the sources added.

The Chief Executive, ASF, Khalid Khan said that the approved grant was meant to assist the Society in meeting its initial costs and once certain milestones would be achieved, the ASF would provide further financial assistance to the Society for operational and marketing expenses.

Khan further said that this grading plant would not only provide good business opportunities to the local business community, but would also add value to the fruit, which is being grown in abundance in the province, thereby reducing the post-harvest losses to the minimum level.

The Society comprises of medium and large sized apple growers from different parts of Balochistan. Under certain arrangement by the provincial government, the apple grading plant is being leased to the Society for three years for commercial operation. The purpose of this initiative is to motivate local business community to develop entrepreneurial skills and utilise the resources available in the province.

Balochistan is the largest province in Pakistan with a surface area of some 347 thousand square km. The aridity of its climate and high elevations enable it to produce good quality deciduous fruits in a comparatively disease free environment. Apple, being the leading fruit, constituted 30 percent of the area under deciduous fruits and 34 percent of the total fruit production in the province.

Further, Balochistan has 102,300 hectors under cultivation and produces 220,000 tons of apples per year. The province produces a variety of apples, namely Tor Kulu, Shin Kulu, Amri, Mashadi and Kashimiri, Katja, Galas and Spurs, in the season, which starts from mid-July and ends in October.

Furthermore, the world apple export market forms the volume of around 5 million tones per year with France, Chile, Belgium, USA and Netherlands sharing the major chunk in the international market. Iran and China are the regional competitors of Pakistan with regard to apple export, said sources.

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