Pak quake hits apple orchards, livelihoods | world | Hindustan Times
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Pak quake hits apple orchards, livelihoods

world Updated: Nov 02, 2008 08:39 IST
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The sweeping valley of Ziarat district in southwest Pakistan, hit this week by a powerful earthquake, is famous for its ancient juniper forests and orchards filled with golden and green apples.

But the 6.4-magnitude tremor that destroyed homes and killed up to 300 people also felled many trees, robbing local apple industry workers of their livelihoods at a time when the sought-after crop was nearly ripe for harvest.

"Our region is the largest apple producer in the country," said Dilawal Kakar, the mayor of Ziarat town, where Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had a retreat and which remains a haven for summer tourists and pilgrims.

"The earthquake has destroyed many orchards in the affected region and rendered many people jobless and deprived their owners of their earnings."

Most of the 100,000-strong population in this picturesque corner of mountainous Baluchistan province are involved in apple farming in some way, either as orchard owners or labourers. Honey farming is also a major source of jobs.

Pakistan produced an estimated 350,000 tonnes of apples in 2007, more than Canada, Britain or Israel, according to the latest available UN Food and Agriculture Organisation statistics.

Most were grown in Baluchistan while many of the remainder come from the violence-ridden district of Swat in North West Frontier Province and the troubled tribal areas of South and North Waziristan.

Like many here, orchard owner Mohammad Shah lost close family members when the quake struck before dawn on Wednesday, killing the sleeping inhabitants of the flimsy mud-brick, straw-roofed houses that dot the rugged landscape.