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Horticulture sector needs more support for infrastructure

ISLAMABAD (August 12 2007): The Sub-committee on Infrastructure (SCI) of the Task Force on Horticulture Finance and Competitiveness has found that the horticulture industry required major support in the area of infrastructure.

This included particularly transport (eg dedicated refrigerated trucks, rail cars and containers), space on aircraft and improved connectivity with international markets.

The SC-I also noted that there were disparities between the infrastructure in Punjab where facilities were generally better than other provinces. The committee recognised the need for a national approach that can link production in remote areas with main markets.

The meeting was attended by the representatives of concerned ministries, provincial departments and the companies specialising in agri-business and marketing.

The aim of the sub-committee on infrastructure is to ensure that all relevant actions are taken in developing infrastructure to facilitate the production, post-harvest handling, storage, transport, processing and export by sea, land and air of the products of horticulture.

Speaking on the occasion, Mushtaq Malik said: `We need to develop an integrated approach to make the horticulture sector more competitive and infrastructure is the key element to improve competitiveness.`

He informed the SC-I will work with the stakeholders in horticulture, in the financial sector and in related industries. He said the sub-committee will review the aspects of the rural infrastructure and other aspects of infrastructure, including transport and communications, which most significantly impacts on the horticulture sector. The SC-I will identify the major investors both in the public and the private sectors for investments in the supply chain infrastructure of the horticulture sector.

He also informed the members that the committee will review the current and proposed projects that most significantly impact on horticulture. It will also review the large-scale infrastructure of Pakistan`s roads, railways, border crossing points, ports and airports, etc and will indicate the main areas for improvement with regard to horticulture marketing.

Malik also said: `The committee will also review the micro-infrastructure, including aspects of on-farm and primary off-farm storage and transport.`

The sub-committee on infrastructure will submit the findings of the meeting to the implementation committee for a final review of the Task Force on Horticulture Finance and Competitiveness. PM`s Adviser on finance Dr Salman Shah will make the presentation to the prime minister on improving the financing in the horticulture sector for its competitiveness.

To improve the competitiveness of the economy, Primer Minister Shaukat Aziz has earlier announced that roads are a major part of the National Trade Corridor (NTC) and all 115 ongoing projects pertaining to roads and highways costing Rs 415 billion will be completed by 2014. All these efforts are expected to help increase Pakistan`s exports from $17 billion in 2007 to around $250 billion by 2030. The infrastructure development initiatives will ultimately facilitate in decreasing the cost of doing business through improvement in the trade logistics for the horticulture sector as well.

The world horticulture market is valued at $80 billion to which Pakistan contributes $150 million annually to it. Only about 15 percent of fruits are being processed, although, this activity offers great opportunities to augment volume of value added products using modern technology.

The fruits and vegetables exported fresh from attract discount prices because exporters are unable to provide adequate grading and packaging. Pakistan`s horticulture export industry`s share in the world market has risen steadily from about 5 percent in 1991 to 12 percent (value 2004). The potential markets for the Pakistani exporters have been identified in Europe and the Middle East.

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