FAO in Pakistan

Mulberries Rain Income on Farmers

The USAID-funded FAO Balochistan Agricultural Project helps Mastung farmers start earning income from a neglected berry

“In the past two years, we earned more than 67 million Rupees (US$670,000) from a fruit that we used to bypass rotting on the ground,” says farmer Ramzan Mohammad.  Ramzan is one of the 12 farmers from Mastung District of Balochistan who formed a Mulberry Farmers Marketing Collective (FMC) formed with support from the FAO Balochistan Agricultural Project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in early 2013.  

Mastung’s farmers typically plant Mulberry trees as a wind break on field boundaries and along water channels.  The fruit was not considered very valuable, and was used very rarely. Once in a while, one could find dried mulberries being sold at local markets for as little as 60 Rupees per kilogram.  “We mostly used mulberries as snacks to eat at home,” says Ramzan.

To help farmers expand their income-earning opportunities, the USAID-funded FAO project helped a group of 12 farmers in Mastung District organize an FMC to start earning income from the sale of mulberries.  Ramzan was elected by his fellow farmers to serve as the president of the FMC. 

With the support from the project, the farmers began searching for markets to sell dried mulberries. They visited several fruit and vegetable markets in Karachi and displayed the fruit at major agricultural expositions in Karachi and Lahore. The farmers saw that despite their low demand in their area, dried mulberries are very popular in other areas of Pakistan as a sweet dried fruit. “We also learned that dried mulberries are in an especially high demand in the city of Sehwan Sharif in Jamshoro District, Sindh Province during the annual celebrations held in honour of a local Sufi saint,” says Ramzan.

Building on the contacts and information gained through their visits, the FMC sent 240 tons of dried mulberries to dried fruit vendors Sehwan Sharif in 2013.  The FAO project also taught the farmers to grade the berries and helped package them into 80-kilogram jute bags. Each bag was sold at 8,000 Rupees (100 Rupees per kilogram), and by the end of the year, the 12 farmers had a tidy sum of 24 million Rupees in revenues, a massive rise in their annual income. “It’s double the price that other farmers earned from mulberries in our area,” says Ramzan. 

The following year, the FMC sold 288 tons of dried mulberries to vendors in Karachi and Sehwan Sharif and earned 43.2 million Rupees in revenue. “Even though we did not increase the amount much, our earnings nearly doubled due to better quality,” says Ramzan. 

The farmers now plan to set up a proper drying facility with the support of the project to increase the quality of the produce further. They have also decided to start packaging the mulberries in small cardboard boxes with plastic liners to increase market appeal. “By improving the cleanliness and packaging of the berries, we will be able to charge an even better price,” says Ramzan.