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Russian team to visit Bhulwal, other areas to check citrus: efforts mounted to get ban lifted

KARACHI (October 06 2007): Pakistan has taken some `grass-roots level` measures in a bid to get the Russian ban on import of its agricultural products lifted when a delegation from Moscow would visit here in mid-November.

Mohammad Iqbal, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB) told Business Recorder on Friday that the Russian team would inspect the kinnow processing plants, which would start functioning in November.

`We have 10 kinnow processing plants certified as per HACCP (hazardous analysis for critical control point) standards, while 10 others would get the same certification by November`, he said. Iqbal said that the Russian team would visit Bhulwal, which is the hub of kinnow production and exports, besides other areas in the country where the citrus is grown and processed.

The PHDEB official firmly maintained that by no means Pakistani kinnows would cause any risk to the health of Russian nationals. Supported technically by the PHDEB and financially by the Agribusiness Development and Diversification Project (ADDP), at least 16 exporters have taken various groups of growers onboard to ensure the grassroots level improvements in the value-added horticulture sector, he said.

`The exporters and growers have brought a kinnow crop area ranging from 15,000 to 16,000 acres under the GAP (good agricultural practices) system through EurepGAP certification`, he said. About the country`s citrus production he said a good crop was standing in the orchards which could safely be estimated at around 2 million tons.

Regarding the Russian ban, sources in the PHDEB said that the major stumbling block was related to rice consignments, which were found infested with `khapra beetle`. To avoid future embargo, sources said that PHDEB was working on various proposals, including enforcement of quality and grading standards, pre-shipment inspection of the kinnow and various incentives, like subsidies on airfreights etc for those exporters who would voluntarily present their goods for inspection.

In addition to this, training programmes would also be organised for the growers, processors and exporters by holding various seminars and workshops and creating awareness among the all stakeholders on the EurapGap and HACCP and motivating them to implement these standards, they said.

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