Islamabad, April 2, 2015 – Over the past two years, the Balochistan Agricultural Project sponsored by the U.S. government has helped a group of 12 farmers dramatically increase their income to over $670,000 from the sale of dried mulberries. In 2013, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) developed the program to work directly with farmers from the Mastung district in Balochistan to research and expand the market for mulberries across Pakistan.
In the past, mulberry trees have served as wind breakers, delineating property boundaries and waterways and were not considered a cash crop in Balochistan. Through the support of USAID, farmers began visiting dried fruit markets and agricultural exhibitions across the country and discovered a renewed demand for the fruit. The project enabled farmers to increase their productivity and ship 240 tons of dried mulberries to dried fruit vendors in Sindh in 2013 and an additional 288 tons in 2014. Overall, this group of farmers was able to improve the quality of the produce and triple their income.
Gregory Gottlieb, USAID Mission Director, commented, “Over the past 5 years, USAID-sponsored projects have helped 800,000 families increase their farms’ productivity, which has increasing benefits for all Pakistanis. These projects have generated $45 million in domestic sales, $28 million in export sales, and leveraged over $5 million in private sector investment.”
Farmers from the Balochistan Agricultural Project now plan to establish a modern drying facility and will begin packaging the mulberries in cardboard boxes to maintain quality and freshness during shipping. Mohammad Ramzan, head of the Mulberry Farmer Marketing Collective in Mastung thanked USAID and said, “By improving the cleanliness and packaging of the berries, we will be able to dramatically increase our earnings.”