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MARCH 04, 2012: Horticulture exports could fetch up to $7 billion with a little attention on improving the yield through research and development which is badly lacking at present.

CEN Harvest Trading and member export committee of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ahmad Jawad talking to Business Recorder said that while production of fruit and vegetables was coming down in Pakistan, in neighbouring India which is the second largest grower in the world, there has been a significant increase in the production of horticulture crops in recent years.
Crops covering fruit, vegetables and spices occupy an area of 17.7 million hectares, producing 218.7 million tones of horticulture produce.

He said that strong leadership and commitment of key players from the agriculture sector could help Pakistan become a formidable force in the international market, as there is tremendous room for growth.
"Although country is surplus in producing mango, citrus, date, paddy rice, we have to feed 180 million people of the country.

We could capture the global market of said commodities only if we were to process, add value and improve the shelf life of the perishable commodities to benefit our small farmers and the country at large."
The main issue is to first have a proper long-term strategy and solutions which, unfortunately, is missing and hindering the growth of exports as a result of faulty decisions, he said.

Jawad said Commission markets in the Middle East are "pain in the neck" for the exporters of horticulture products.
 

Currently, 70 percent of the fruit, particularly Kinnow and mango, are exported to Middle East every year but the exporters, instead of making profits, bear huge losses due to the existence of these markets.
Stakeholders in the horticulture value chain say that although Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company's (PHDEC's) main thrust should be to introduce Pakistan to high end international markets through strategic efforts along with integrated interventions and facilitation in all the sub-sectors of the value chain, but unfortunately it lacks proper vision and planning.
Missing awareness among Pakistani exporters about global food safety standards, cohesive supply chains, and marketing systems are also to blame for keeping country's produce export volumes low, he added.

He said that out of 13.67 million tonnes of annual production of fruits and vegetables in Pakistan, about 30 percent is lost during pre and post-harvest stages due to primitive and poor techniques of handling.

It is believed that improvement in harvest management infrastructure for horticultural products will not only help reduce harvest losses, increase production surplus and also the shelf life and quality of fresh produce, but would also greatly contribute to stabilising the prices in domestic markets and substantially boost exports.
Jawad regretted that a majority of growers are unaware about the ethics of domestic market as well as of international trade due to which they cannot envisage the forthcoming demand of fruits.

As a result they are neither able to plan for future nor have the capability to acquire the requisite needs compatible to the foreign market.

Thus, there is a need for organising training programmes and demonstrations on production-cum-marketing technology for attaining standard products.
India is the second largest producer of fruits in the world, falling behind China.

It is, however, the largest producer of mango, banana, papaya, sapota, pomegranate and Aonla.

About 40 percent of the world's mangoes and 30 percent of the world's bananas and papayas are produced in India.

In terms of productivity of grapes, India ranks first in the world, he said.
If we compare Pakistan's Punjab and India's Punjab, the big provinces on both sides, one would see a big difference; the yields of wheat, paddy and sugarcane are much higher in India.

In the case of two Punjab's which were split apart by a line drawn hastily by Sir Cyril Radcliffe in 1947, the Indian state has clearly shot ahead of its Pakistani counterpart on the farm front, he said.
Similarly the level of mechanisation of agriculture is much higher on the Indian side.

The number of tractors and diversity of brands seen operating in India's Punjab quite outnumber the Pakistan side.

While combined harvesters are a rare sight in Pakistan, where wheat and paddy are cut manually, they are indigenously manufactured in India and their use is widespread, he said.
 

Courtesy: Business Recorder

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