China has expressed keen interest in importing Pakistani potatoes at a time when farmers are facing a crisis due to low prices and demanding subsidy to continue to produce the crop.
“China seems to be keen to buy Pakistani potato, which is vastly encouraging,” said a statement released by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research on Thursday.
The Asian superpower expressed willingness to buy the vegetable during a meeting with the Pakistani ambassador.
Recently, the potato growers staged a protest because the cost of cultivation came in at Rs9 per kg, which was over two times the price offered by middlemen. Owing to surplus production, the middlemen gave just Rs4 for one kg of potato.
In Karachi, the potato is priced close to Rs25 per kg due to the addition of the cost of transportation, fuel, labour and other expenses.
The offer from China will provide much-needed relief to the growers who are demanding subsidy.
China, which imports 1 million tons of potatoes from different countries, will begin potato import from Pakistan after sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS) are complied with.
“This move will have a multidimensional impact on the growers and exporters of Pakistan,” said All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) Chairman Abdul Malik. “Had this opportunity not emerged, the growers would have no other option but to bury the huge surplus quantity, thereby sustaining hefty financial losses.”
The exact potato production in Pakistan could not be given but the most quoted number was 6 million tons, said Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) former vice president Waheed Ahmed.
Pakistan exports 300,000-400,000 tons annually but still it is left with a surplus quantity which causes problems for the growers.
Each year, the export of potatoes usually starts in the last week of January but this year, around 25 trucks have already gone to Kabul in the past two days, according to the Ministry of National Food Security.
The ministry, through the Department of Plant Protection (DPP), establishes a facilitation centre in Okara every year.
The purpose of this facility is to assist the exporters and streamline the cumbersome procedure.
In order to encourage the exporters, the government has lifted all the duties linked to potato exports. Pakistan exports the crop to the Central Asian countries, Russia, Malaysia, Gulf states and Sri Lanka.
Afghanistan levies around 25% duty on the Pakistani potato exported to Central Asian states via its territory. The government of Pakistan has taken up this issue with the Afghan authorities and expects to find a solution.