CHAKWAL: The yield of the peanut crop, which is the sole cash crop of the Potohar region, has been dramatically affected by climate change.
Peanut production this year has halved in some parts of the region, and has even fallen by 70pc in some pockets.
The Chakwal and Attock districts of the Potohar region are the leading peanut growers in the country.
According to the deputy director of the Agriculture Extension Department Chakwal, Malik Mohammad Aslam, this year peanuts were cultivated on 88,800 acres of land in the Chakwal district. The sowing area covers the Chakwal, Talagang and Lawa tehsils, while the hilly Choa Saidan Shah and Kallar Kahar tehsils are not feasible for peanut cultivation.
According to Deputy Director Agriculture Extension Department Chakwal Malik Muhammad Aslam this year peanut was cultivated at an area of 88800 acres in Chakwal district. This sowing area consists on tehsils of Chakwal, Talagang and newly carved Lawa while having hilly area tehsils of Choa Saidan Shah and Kallar Kahar are not feasible for peanut cultivation.
Talagang and Lawa used to be the major peanut producers in the district, but the yield in both tehsils was affected this year.
“I cultivated peanuts on three and a half acres and I was expecting a yield of 35 maunds. I was surprised when I harvested my crops because I only got 2 maunds,” said Haji Mohammad Qasim, a farmer in the Dhurnal village of Lawa.
“I could not even get the seed that I sowed,” he added, blaming the low level of rainfall Talagang and Lawa received this monsoon.
Saleem Akhtar from Khuian village had a similar story. He cultivated peanuts on six acres of land, and expected a yield of 40 maunds but said he could only get 16. Mr Akhtar too blamed the lack of rainfall.
The climatic situation in Chakwal has been difficult on crops, especially after untimely rainfall during the crop’s flowering stage.
“Rain is not needed during the flowering stage, but in the Chakwal tehsil area surplus rain damaged the flowers of the crop and the plants could not acquire proper fruiting,” explained Dr Mohammad Tariq, the director general of the Barani Agriculture Research Institute (Bari) Chakwal.
“We did not see flowers on peanut plants this year,” confirmed Aqeel Haider, a farmer from the Miangan village.
At the Chakwal Grain Market, trader Ali Javed said 10 to 15,000 bags of peanuts used to arrive at the market every day from various villages, but this year “only 2,500 to 3,000 bags are arriving on a daily basis”.
The price of peanuts is satisfactory due to the low production; the average price per 40 kilograms ranges from Rs4,500 to Rs5,200.
The repatriation of Afghan nationals who were often hired during the harvesting period has also posed a challenge for peanut farmers in the Potohar region.
Mr Aslam from the Agriculture Extension Department, however, said that in addition to climate change, farmers themselves were also responsible for their poor yields. He said farmers do not give peanuts the same attention they give other crops because they do not use fertilisers when sowing the crop.
“After sowing the crop, most farmers leave their crop at the mercy of weeds as they do not hoe. This practice also affects yield,” he said.
Bari’s Dr Tariq told Dawn that a new variety of peanut seed has been prepared at the institute that was capable of ripening within four months. “The new variety would have more potential for tolerating the risks of climate change,” he said.
Published in Dawn, October 30th, 2017