Pakistan may face vegetable shortage in 10 years

Pakistan is likely to a crisis of shortage of vegetables in the next ten years if immediate efforts are not made to increase crop yields, exporters said on Tuesday. Waheed Ahmed, co-chairman of the Pakistan Fruits and Vegetable Exporter, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA), told The News that Pakistan has increased its exports to an optimum level of $524 million in the last two years. “Going forward, exports would decline if yield is not increased. We will become fruits and vegetable importing country in the next ten years,” he said. There is no focus on research and development, he said, and production was coming down while population was increasing. “If you improve yield the country can earn up to $7 billion in fruit and vegetable exports,” he said. “However, currently we are not on the right track.”

Due to decline in the production, Ahmed said, imported apples would find their way in the Pakistani markets in the next couple of months. Ahmad Jawad, chief executive officer Harvest Tradings, said that the country is targeting new markets for its fruits and vegetables, but poor post-harvest facilities limit export growth. “Every year 2.2m tons of vegetables and 2.8-3m tons of fruits go to waste during and after harvest,” he said. “This is too big a loss – roughly 30 percent of Pakistan’s total vegetable production, and about 40 percent of fruits.” Pakistan is exploring new markets in Asia, North Africa and Russia in an effort to become a major player on the international fresh produce export scene, a leading shipper said. Pakistan is broadening its export horizon, and is shipping higher volumes of fruits and vegetables to Chinese and Central Asian markets; in particular, as trade ties with China continue to deepen.

Pakistani exporters have also started exporting potatoes to Russia and citrus to Japan. Traditionally, Pakistan has focused on markets in the US, Europe, East Asia and the Middle East. This broader export strategy has helped significantly boost Pakistan’s export earnings. Foreign exchange earnings through fruit and vegetable exports have risen every year. “But a lack of post-harvest and cold-chain infrastructure is seriously hampering Pakistan’s fruit export potential,” Jawad said. “Public-private initiatives are needed to invest in technologies to enhance produce shelf-life and boost export prices.” A lack of awareness among Pakistani exporters about global food safety standards, cohesive supply chains, and marketing systems are also to blame for keeping the country’s produce export volumes low, he added.

Jawad identified Pakistan’s dates as fruits with great export potential. “Pakistan remains focused on exporting mangoes and citrus fruits. It is not exploiting the full potential of date exports that can fetch lots of foreign exchange,” he said. “Our country produces a lot of fresh dates, some of which can fetch as much as Rs1,000 ($11.3) per kg in export prices if graded and processed properly by using modern technology.” Majority of growers are neither able to plan for future nor have the capability to acquire the requisite needs compatible to the foreign market. “Thus, there is a need for organizing training programmes and demonstrations on production-cum-marketing technology for increasing standard of products,” he added.


Publication date: 11/30/2011

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