KARACHI (August 18 2007): The Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB) is working on a strategy to end the monopoly hitherto enjoyed by India in exports of mango to the United States. One of the major impediments is the strict quarantine restriction.
The PHDEB is endeavouring to meet the US quarantine requirements on Pakistani mangoes which has left the field open for India to capture the US market, though, quality-wise, Pakistani mangoes are far superior in flavour and taste.
Shamoon Sadiq, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board, told Business Recorder on telephone from Lahore on Friday that quarantine restrictions are a big hurdle in the way of exporting fruits, particularly mango which has a great potential of capturing foreign markets because of its high quality.
In US, the fruit is to be certified under `Irradiation system` ie, it must pass through gamma rays, or neutrons. For China and Japan, it must have gone through `Hot water dip` process, and in Japan it must be VH treated.
He said that to meet these requirements Paras Food Private Ltd (PFPL) is setting up an `irradiation plant` on Multan Road in Lahore and another one with a much larger capacity would be soon set up in Karachi to overcome the difficulties being faced by the exporters. `Once the `irradiation system` is in place and fruits are certified as pest- and disease-free, fruit exports would touch a new peak.
The most popular commercial varieties - all different in colours and sizes, and each with a distinct flavour and taste - include Anwar Retol, Dasehri, Langra, Chaunsa, Sindhari, Saharni, Alphonso, Pairi, Fazli and Neelam.
The `king of fruits` is grown in Punjab and Sindh provinces and is available in abundance from May to September. Ripe fruits are mainly eaten fresh, but are also used in preparing squash, jams and other preserves and sometimes canned.
Mangoes in green (unripe) condition are used for making mango chutneys and pickles. Mangoes contain sugar, are an important source of vitamin A, and also contain vitamins B and C. Small amounts of protein, iron, calcium and phosphorus are also present.
Australian scientists are helping the Pakistani mango industry to become more efficient in its harvesting and transport. But well before the harvest stage, Pakistan faces huge challenges with its mango production, for example diseases.
A team of Australian experts headed by Dr Ian Bally is advising Pakistan on these early stages. Dr Bally is a senior horticulturist with the Department of Primary Industry in Queensland. `Pakistan`s production is much higher than Australia`s production. I think, Pakistan produces over a million tonnes mangoes every year as compared to Australia`s 35,000 to 40,000 tonnes. However, most of it is consumed locally and very little is exported, probably about one percent. In Australia we export 10 percent of mangoes,` he said.
In Pakistan, there are small subsistence farmers to large corporate farmers, but they all seem to grow with old traditional methods, he said, adding that Australian project is basically looking to introduce some modern methods of nursery production.
According to PHDEB, global market for fresh fruit and value-added fruit products continue to increase as world population grows and per capita income rises. Significant export market opportunities exist for those Pakistani producers/exporters who could provide consistent supplies of high quality product at competitive market prices.
Adequate change has occurred in production technology, harvesting practices, packaging, and post harvest care within the Pakistani fruit crops sector over the last decade, with the exception very recently in the case of Kino.
This stagnation has not allowed the Pakistani fruit industry to maneuver itself into a competitive market position, particularly in the global market. The domestic market continues to remain the primary market outlet for the vast majority of Pakistan grown fruit, and even here other producers such as China and India are gaining market share
PHDEB is of the opinion that that fruit sector in Pakistan needs to continue to modernise in order to remain competitive and increase market share. Fruit crop average yields must also be improved in order to increase the volume of supply. Pakistan Initiative for Strategic Development and Competitiveness (PISDAC) project is involved in developing a sustainable and diverse Pakistani fruit crops across all areas, with a focus on grapes, apples and mangoes. Efforts in Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab have focused on model or demonstration farms and upgrading practices to meet Euregap and other standards.
PISDAC is working with other donors like Australia, Pakistan Horticulture Development Board, Agribusiness Support Fund and the Asian Development Bank funded project at the Ministry of Food, Livestock and Agriculture to ensure coordination with the private sector. And further leveraging of each other`s contributions in providing guidance and technical assistance/training to the growers so that they are able to provide the market with consistent supplies of uniform high quality product at competitive prices.
Currently four model farms are in the process of development for apples and grapes in Balochistan and three or more mango demonstration farms in Sindh and Punjab.
A workshop held recently on Euregap has strengthened efforts by Australia, the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad and public sector agencies to obtain Euregap certification. A second workshop will be held soon to support a process by which Pakistan would be able to export its mangoes to the United States.
The horticulture Strategy Working Group (SWOG) is also developing a competitiveness strategy and action plan to reposition and strengthen the Pakistani fruit crops industry to be more competitive in domestic and international markets both in the short term and long term.
Recently, SWOG had brought in world renowned experts to benchmark the Pakistani fruit industry, identify gaps and linkages that will help the industry to overcome these gaps and to assist SWOG in developing an overall strategy to position itself on a more competitive basis.
SWOG had also undertaken a study tour of Germany to visit fruit logistics and observe the export market and its requirements. Several European buyers had participated in the Euregap workshop held in Lahore in April this year. It was part of SWOG`s preliminary strategic action plan to create greater awareness of quality issues and standards required to incorporate good agricultural practices in Pakistan and create possible linkages with the international markets.