Impact of climate change on Sindh’s date production

By Zulfiqar Kunbhar

Sindh’s date production
Sindh’s date production

KARACHI: Sindh’s environment has been ideal for date cultivation with perfect soil and warm climate. But things are changing now. At time when dates are ready to be plucked, dried, processed and sold, Upper Sindh has witnessed radical and catastrophic climate change recently, within a month. As the fruit starts dropping compelling the growers to harvest it, the orchard owners are worried about rapid climate change.

In Sindh, dates crop matures with the advent of monsoon season. The production is under increasing pressure as rapid climate change is disadvantageous for crop.

Growers are of the view that innumerable climate change could affect crop growth and quality. Others worry that climate change is going to permanently alter weather patterns, temperatures, and rainfall. The veteran agriculture scientist from Khairpur, Mushtaq Soomro says temperature increase; extreme weather events and expected irregular rainfall are major threats to the crop. “Although date crop needs full sun and grows in warm climates, but look at the pattern in temperature rise. Till May 12, temperature was normal. After that, it touched near 50 degrees centigrade. Sudden high temperatures could lead to poor harvest,” says Soomro.

However an entomologist Dr Mohammad Usman Shar, who recently conducted surveys in Khairpur district, considers red palm weevil pest biggest threat to areas dates. He says area’s date crop is effected 15-20 percent annually. “The insect was first recorded in India in 1904 and then it spread to gulf countries. The weevil was first reported in Pakistan in early 1980s.” Dr Shar adds. The government should try to raise awareness among growers about the early detection of the pest, he demands. Microconidia of Fusarium Oxysporium, a disease, could also be future threat, he says.

Heavy winds combined with rain can down large trees: Rains that often result in flooding can also be detrimental to crops and to soil structure. Flooding, like it did in 2010, can result in irreversible habitat damage. Water scarcity is major threat to the date crop as well. The area is witnessing shortage of irrigation water. Palm tree requires high water as it can tolerate long periods of drought. Changes in climate may also impact the water availability.

Unpredictable weather conditions have forced local farmers to change the date of swing. Unlike past, crops are swing early and late, keeping in view the climatic conditions. Interestingly water scarcity has enhanced dates production in the area as farmers have started preferring it over other cash crops like cotton and banana.

Sindh’s dates have long been considered among the country’s best. The highly nutritious fruit is grown in Khairpur, Sukkur, Rohri, Pano Aqil, Ghotki and adjoining areas. Most important variety is Aseel. Others incude Karbalai and Fasli. Khairpur district being major producer of dates in country, contributes around 50 percent of total production. Khairpur is even known for Aseel because of delicious taste.

Major importers of Sindh’s dates include India, Nepal, US, UK, Afghanistan and European countries. Chuhara, dried dates, have gained highly acceptance in India. Once imported from Pakistan, India resells Chuhara to other parts of world as well. Daily Times

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