As kinnow exports commenced at the beginning of this month, sellers have said they’re targeting a 17 percent increase in exports by volume as compared to the previous season. This would mean potential shipments of 350,000 tons of this citrus, but new data reveals a sector whose exports are problematic.
The All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association says the onset of COVID-19 is driving up demand for fresh and processed citrus products and North American and European markets are major drivers of this demand surge.
However, Pakistani citrus exporters are unable to capitalize on these market conditions. The current season’s export target, while higher than last year, is nowhere close to levels achieved in earlier years. Local growers say domestic cultivation is reliant on orchards that are, on average, 60 years old. The fruits grown here are prone to diseases like melanoses and other defects like blemishing. This leads to produce that often does not meet EU quality standards. Pakistani fruit exporters say they have imposed a ‘self-ban’ on selling to the region. Hence, benefiting from the short-term surge in demand in some of the biggest markets, is out of the question.
But this is not all. Some other countries that have been favoured destinations for citrus sellers in previous years, are also falling off the list of markets for Pakistani exporters. Deliveries to Central Asian states like Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have been sporadic through the years, with Pakistani exporters unable to gain a permanent foothold. The precipitous decline in exports to some other countries is due to exogenous factors, so not much can be done about those; for example, the ongoing war in Yemen.
Markets where demand is still strong, like the Middle East and China, are becoming more expensive to reach. Disruptions to international shipping are driving up rates and stifling the availability of containers for Pakistani exporters. This problem is all the more acute for exporters of fruit and fresh produce whose goods can only be transported in reefer containers.
ECC urged to notify timeline
FPCCI Pakistan Businesses Forum Vice President Ahmad Jawad has urged the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to approve and notify official timelines for kinnow and mango exports. Earlier in October, the ECC constituted a committee compromising officials of commerce and food security divisions to decide a timeline for the export of mango and kinnow after due consultation with stakeholders.