Modern citrus research centres planned in Punjab

June 13, 2024

Muhammad Saleem

The Punjab government is going to establish two modern citrus research centres to help enhance its production and exports. Punjab agriculture minister Syed Ashiq Hussain said the provincial government was focusing on the transformation of the agriculture sector. He said measures were being taken to boost citrus production in Punjab. The two modern research centers are being established in Layyah and Toba Tek Singh districts. He told WealthPK that the management of a citrus research institute already working in Sargodha had been directed to establish modern nurseries. Currently, Ashiq said citrus was being cultivated on 376,000 acres in Punjab, and three districts – Sargodha, Toba Tek Singh and Layyah – were the major producers. He said a research centre in Toba Tek Singh district would provide technical guidance to citrus growers.

The minister said the agriculture patterns were changing and the situation demanded establishment of modern research centres to transform the sector.  Ashiq said they were in contact with the Chinese government to establish the Pakistan China Research and Development Centre in south Punjab. The Punjab government is also approaching international institutes for joint ventures, and soon a Memorandum of Understanding will be inked with relevant institutions in California and Washington, USA, he said. He said a special team of agricultural scientists would embark on a study trip to the US to explore modern methods for bolstering agricultural production. Hammad Ahmed, a citrus grower in Toba Tek Singh, told WealthPK that the agriculture sector was facing challenges due to climate change and other factors. “However, authorities seem least interested in helping growers to tackle the challenges.”

He believes a regular interaction between farmers and relevant officials can help develop agriculture sector on modern lines and enhance exports. He said officials must take growers into confidence prior to launching any project because growers knew the ground realities. He lauded the plan to set up a state-of-the-art citrus research centre in Toba Tek Singh.  Dr Shahbaz, a faculty member at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, said citrus production was in decline in Pakistan with exports having reduced from $300 to $100 million per annum. He said the UAF was striving to address the issues of growers by introducing climate-smart seeds. “Demand for seedless citrus is increasing globally, and Pakistan can promote cultivation of this variety to earn a significant amount of foreign exchange.”

Shahbaz said citrus production had been hit by various diseases with climate change aggravating the situation. “We must work hard to protect the existing citrus orchards,” he noted. “We need to set up modern nurseries for producing citrus seeds. Cooperation among academia, industry and growers is must for bring advancement to this sector,” he suggested. Hammad, the citrus farmer, urged the government to launch training programmes for citrus growers to enable them to ensure pest control and reduce post-harvest losses. He said scarcity of disease-resistant seed varieties, the lack of modern storage facilities and inadequate transportation were also hampering the growth of the citrus industry.

Credit: INP-WealthPk