KARACHI: Pakistan may be among the top five producers of mangoes in the world, but its production was 50% of its capacity last year, according to industry players, who are now concerned over future yield as climate change and other factors play their role in squeezing produce.
While there are expectations that this year’s production may be higher, issues facing the industry will continue to haunt mango growers.
“I haven’t seen a yield so low since I started working in 1995,” Pakistan Fruit & Vegetable Exporters, Importers & Merchants Association (PFVA) Patron-in-Chief Waheed Ahmed told The Express Tribune.
His comments came after Pakistan registered its lowest production in history last year, amounting to 0.9 million tons, according to industry players.
“Other veterans of the industry tell me it was the worst in Pakistan’s history.” India, China, Thailand, Mexico and Pakistan are the top producers of mangoes in the world.
However, Pakistan could see itself drop out of the list as climate change and water scarcity hinder production.
“Winters have been longer for a few years now due to climate change, which has been impacting yield. Moreover, there were frequent hailstorms and strong winds, which forced production of mangoes to drop.
“There’s water shortage as well. All these have adversely affected not only mango production but also agriculture as a whole,” he added.
According to Germanwatch’s Global Climate Risk Index 2018 report, Pakistan is the seventh most vulnerable country to global warming and subsequently, climate change.
The export target of 100,000 tons was also not achieved as shipments amounted to 81,000 tons.
“Along with low production, the smaller size of mango is also of great concern to exporters. Due to increase in demand and shortage of supply this year, the wholesale price of mango is expected to increase from Rs2,400 to Rs3,000 per 40kg approximately,” said Ahmed.
He said that there was an urgent need for research and policymaking to deal with the issue of climate change.
“Other countries have already started dealing with the global warming issue. But unfortunately, Pakistan has lagged behind that could imperil the country’s food security.”
Ahmed said the industry has been facing a higher air freight expense compared to neighbouring India and that too, in disagreeable conditions. He remarked that last year the air freight was Rs178 per kg for Pakistan, while it was Rs95 per kg for Indian produce to European countries in Pakistani rupee terms.
“Airlines from the Middle East take an undertaking from Pakistan exporters that they won’t be responsible for late delivery or even in case the number of boxes are less when the shipment reaches its destination.
“We have approached the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) to resolve this issue. I have seen many exporters losing a lot of money due to late delivery and sometimes due to mistakes on the part of the airlines,” he said.
On a positive note, the much-celebrated China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route may help the country in exporting mangoes to China this year.
The industry expects that around 500 to 2,000 tons could be exported to the neighbouring country. The Gulf countries, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and European countries could also be major buyers of Pakistani mangoes. The export of mango is set to begin from May 20.
Foreign exchange of $95-100 million is expected to be generated by attaining the export target of 100,000 tons. Rupee devaluation and Ramazan have made Pakistani exporters hopeful of attaining the target this year. Mango promotion events will also be held in China, and European countries this year to further enhance the export of mango.
By Bilal Hussain, Express Tribune