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Recommendations submitted for horticulture sector

ISLAMABAD (September 28 2007): The sub-committee of the task force on horticulture finance and competitiveness submitted its recommendations for making this areas competitive in the international market and take their advantage to increase share in exports.

The task force discussed the recommendations in detail in the second meeting held here on Thursday. PM`s Adviser on finance Dr Salman Shah was in the chair.

The key stakeholders - representatives from the ministries of food agriculture and livestock (Minfal); commerce, science & technology, industry, and health; the Board of Investment (BoI) and other private sector representatives from banking, bio-technology and leading horticulture exporters attended the meeting.

The sub-committee recommended for a holistic, integrated and co-ordinated approach based on leadership by key agencies, principally Minfal/Naphis, PHDEB, BoI and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

It also emphasised the importance of the private sector, including the commercial banks, as key players in the development of this sector. The sub-committee has also suggested that the Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB) should be made an independent body under Section 42 of the Companies` Ordinance. It also recommended that the National Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Naphis) should be restructured as an autonomous agency empowered to enforce the law.

Dr Salman Shah briefed the task force members that the Competitiveness Support Fund (CSF), a joint initiative of the Ministry of Finance and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was tasked by the finance ministry to undertake a comprehensive study. It was meant to explore its competitive advantage for the food processing industry: quality, safety, and standards.

He said the CSF was asked to undertake more specific work on horticulture, a sub-sector of agriculture accorded national priority by the government. An action plan for the horticulture industry was subsequently developed by the CSF in close consultation with Minfal and other stakeholders in May and June 2007, he added.

The action plan proposed a task force chaired by the finance ministry. The approach is based on the many agencies and projects involved in horticulture, duplicating efforts. The CSF proposed that this issue be tackled by a task force for horticulture finance and competitiveness. The first meeting of the task force was held on July 12 last.

The task force decided that an implementation committee would be formed and chaired by the Minfal secretary. The implementation committee would then form operational sub-committees chaired by the secretaries of relevant line ministries. The sub-committees are on production, processing and marketing; quality, standards and regulations; infrastructure; and horti-business finance.

Speaking on the occasion, CSF CEO Arthur Bayhan said the task force and each sub-committee reported findings to the implementation committee which are reflected in the final report made to task force on September 12, 2007.

He said the lacklustre performance of horticulture industry is due to a multitude of factors, adding the CSF brought these to the attention of the government, which has emphasised the need for swift corrective action. The CSF made a presentation to the task force members and briefed them on the findings of the four sub-committees.

CSF Senior Advisor Geoffrey Quartermaine Bastin said the sub-committee on production, processing marketing (SCP) identified major issues to be inadequate institutional mechanisms to support the industry and to allow the technical solutions to be understood and implemented.

He said the committee has recommended for adopting an integrated approach to the total management of all sectors of this industry; establishing priority production `zones` and products for development and providing incentives for investment in post-harvest handling and processing; and improving human capacity.

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