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Australian consultants to evaluate citrus, mango projects: PHDEB

KARACHI (October 07 2007): Australian consultants would visit Pakistan next month to evaluate ongoing citrus and mango projects here, according to Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB). The projects are joint ventures under the Agriculture Sector Linkages Programme (ASLP) for promoting farm sector by the Governments of Pakistan and Australia.

During their two-week stay, the mango consultants would visit Karachi, Hyderabad, Multan and other mango growing areas, whereas consultants for citrus sector would go to Bhalwal and the citrus growing areas in the NWFP. The consultants would also discus with PHDEB officials the impact of various ongoing projects and impediments faced by the authorities.

The consultants for the citrus project are from New South Wales (NSW), Primary Industry Department. They would provide know-how on extending the harvest season of citrus in Pakistan by introducing new varieties, which the Australian farmers grow throughout the year. The consultants would also introduce optimal irrigation practices, because Pakistan farmers are believed to over-irrigate their orchards.

PHDEB Chief Executive Officer Shamoon Sadiq said the export of mango had overshot by 25,000 tons. Till September 10, 125,000 tons of mangoes were exported against the original target of 100,000 tons, which was later revised to 120,000 tons.

According to Hortimag- a newsletter of PHDEB, Shamoon Sadiq said that mango production in the current season stood at 1.8 million tons against 1.6 million tons last year. The export target set for the current season was 120,000 tons, which has been crossed by 5,000 tons.

Pakistan had a bumper mango crop during the current season as compared to last year. Mango production shortage during the last season was attributed to two factors. Firstly, the crop suffered natural alternate bearing phenomenon, in which a good production year is followed by a comparatively lean year.

Secondly, it was a bad weather; persistent cold spell and inclement weather at the time of flowering damaged the florescence and reduced production by around 15 percent. Summing up his argument, Shamoon Sadiq said the increasing trend in mango exports could be attributed to the following factors:

-- Overall increase in production over the years. Though marked by yearly fluctuations, mango production over the years has exhibited an increasing trend. Mango production in 2002-3 was 1.035 million tons, which rose to 1.056 million tons in 2003-4, 1.67 million tons in 2004-5, 1.754 million tons in 2005-6 and 1.8 million tons in 2006-7. Surplus mangoes were available at reasonable prices for export.

-- Growing reliance on sea freight for export to the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. The share of export by sea has increased phenomenally, enabling shipment of large volumes, which was not possible by air due to shortage of space and exorbitantly high airfreight.

-- Improved grower-exporter linkages encouraging sourcing of mango direct from the orchards.

-- Improvement in infrastructure especially roads, pack-houses and cold storage.

-- Capacity building of growers and traders through training and technical assistance leading improvement production practices and improved marketing skills.

-- Locating and cultivating new markets especially Iran.

-- Weight standardisation at 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 kilogram. It has created transparency in transactions and facilitated the buyers. Since the number of pieces in one package is also important in case of exports to Europe, weight standardisation also contributed towards, qualitative improvement as well. It added 15 to 20 percent value and 10 percent volume to the export.

-- Mango promotion in Germany was also conducted and super markets were targeted. The response was very encouraging, and larger export volumes are expected during the coming years, he said.

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