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Horticulture products exports to Russia: efforts aimed at removing restrictions

KARACHI (September 24 2007): The Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock (Minfal) and Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB) are engaged in serious talks with Russian Federation authorities to seek lifting of the restrictions placed on import of Pakistan`s horticulture products.

Russia is one of the major importing countries of Pakistani kinnow, but market access has become a serious problem after a rice consignment, shipped from Pakistan early this year, was found infected with `khapra beetle` during inspection on arrival at Russain port.

Such trade related problems are the outcome of not maintaining proper quality by private sector and, if this were not rectified, would damage national image in foreign markets, official sources told Business Recorder here on Sunday.

Horticulture is still a new concept, and disinformation dolled out by interested circles create confusion among the stakeholders who are already confused about the complex issues of horticulture trade like export potentials, bottlenecks, international trade issues, and sanitary and physto-sanitary (SPS)/technical barriers to trade (TBT) regimes of WTO.

Despite that, according to figures available here, Pakistan`s progress so far has been good in terms of trade expansion in horticulture sector. The horticulture trade from Pakistan was worth $80 million in 2001 and, in 2006, the sectors total value crossed $174 million.

Similarly, on the exports side, among the exports of major fruit items include the kinnow mandarin and mango. Kinnow exports stood at $21.70 million in the year 2001-02 and $38.96 in 2005-06.

Major importing countries of kinnow are Russian Federation, Afghanistan, Iran, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and UAE. Although Indonesia has been one of Pakistan`s biggest kinnow markets, due to duty structure (import duty for Pakistani exports) it is no more competitive to supply kinnow to Indonesian markets. However, irrespective of market problems in Indonesia, Pakistan, in the year 2003-04, set a record of kinnow export at 0.23 million tons due to penetration in new markets like Iran and Russian.

In order to improve the product quality, PHDEB has initiated the system of GAP (through EurepGAP certification of 10,000 acres of kinnow and 4000 acres of mango.). These steps would directly address the rising SPS issues and would help improve the national image of Pakistan as a premium supplier of horticulture products.

The PHDEB also plans to initiate pre-shipment inspection of kinnow to improve its quality. Similarly, the Ministry of Commerce has also planned to set up cold chain infrastructure in Pakistan under National Trade Corridor Improvement Project (NTCIP) to address the issues of post-harvest handling, reefer transport and high quality long-term storage (CA storage). These steps would help improve the volume and value of horticulture trade from Pakistan to different countries in the years to come.

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