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Pakistan’s Horticulture Industry: Issues & ways to step forward

Horticulture
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Beenish S Alvi |

Coinciding with industrial revolution, the second agricultural revolution unlocked new horizons of nature reaping many benefits provided by mechanical technology. But certain issues like pollution, loss of natural resources due to excessive use, and abrupt climatic change, the world is witnessing serious threats to agriculture. 

Not before 21st century, the world started to realize the imminent danger and started different programs to address these issues because these issues started exacerbating their economic agendas directly. Governments are now putting their efforts to make their agriculture sector stronger. The world has realized that to remain intact with nature is important not only for our own survival but to keep this planet suitable for life for our coming generations.

Being an agricultural country, Pakistan is highly dependent upon agriculture for its survival as agriculture is the lifeblood of the economy of the country. Where the world is witnessing a drastic change in climate, Pakistan cannot remain unaffected. World’s largest carbon emitting and industrially advanced countries like China and India border with Pakistan. This is damaging the country’s climate and thereby its agriculture.

The exporters’ community witnessed very hard time not only in terms of financial aspect but also in country’s credibility context. But with the collective efforts of the recent government and the exporter’s community, Pakistan has again come in trade game.

Owing to numerous issues ranging from production technology to government polices the agricultural production has failed to grow with the economic line. Agriculture related businesses are facing a very hard time; especially the export sector is exhibiting incompetence in the international market due to quality issues.

Lack of aggressive economic support policies, negligent attitude of government, poor standardization and quality controls are the leading problems for expansion of trade volume to the foreign markets, thus pushing the sector in a more precarious situation. India is one of the competitors in international market. It has taken ultimate benefit of our weaknesses; ample of times it introduced its products in the market and has dominated over Pakistan leaving virtually no space for Pakistani products. This is certainly an alarming situation for Pakistan. 

Read more: Indonesia allows unlimited kinnow import from Pakistan

Horticulture, which contributes majorly in the agriculture export sector of Pakistan, is unfortunately much neglected. Citrus, mangoes, potatoes, onions, apricot, cherries and cabbages are the primary export items from Pakistan and are highly recognizable all over the world. Since the low production of internationally favorites fruits like banana, apple, orange, grape and strawberry can hardly meet the demand of the domestic market, export opportunities have squeezed further.

Pakistani horticultural export items, especially Kinno, which has a large share in export, is facing quality issues – a very big market like Iran, despite being a profitable market for Pakistan, has not permitted the import. In Morocco, Egypt and Turkey the governments have provided financial assistance to their horticulture sectors, which has likely to shrink the $200m export of Pakistani kinno in the international market.

Such trade initiatives are a kind of a golden opportunity for Pakistan to develop more strong trade relations with South East Asian countries thus harnessing its true potentials and boost its export volume, which will ultimately play vital role in stabilizing its economy.

Mango, which is another leading export commodity, has also suffered due to low shipments to Middle East, Qatar and Oman. This is certainly an alarming situation as these both products constitute almost 50 % of the total fruits export. Same is the situation of perishable vegetables; alone potatoes and onions, which make about 60% of the total vegetable export from Pakistan. But apart from the quality issues, the main problem comes in the form of high production cost. Also, as the fresh vegetables have very short shelf-life so they can’t be shipped via sea while air-shipment is not competitive because of expensive airfreight.

After all such hiccups, 2018 has brought some good news too. In January, Indonesian government announced the lifting of quota restrictions on Kinno imports from Pakistan, allowing shipment of an unlimited quantity of the citrus fruit to the country. Under Preferential Trade Agreement (PAT), in 2012, which became operational in the following year, Indonesia has included 20 more tariff lines from Pakistan in the duty-free list including mangoes and rice under its recent review.

Read more: 6 Things You Should Never Do After Eating

This is a very positive sign for Pakistan to sweep more aggressively in the international market. Southeast Asian countries are becoming hub of fast growing economies and with the current change in the new world order, the existing giant economies of the world are now focusing more on maintaining their trade links with this region. Such trade initiatives are a kind of a golden opportunity for Pakistan to develop more strong trade relations with South East Asian countries thus harnessing its true potentials and boost its export volume, which will ultimately play vital role in stabilizing its economy.

In Morocco, Egypt and Turkey the governments have provided financial assistance to their horticulture sectors, which has likely to shrink the $200m export of Pakistani kinno in the international market.

Following this, another recent development in horticulture export came with the lifting of embargo from export of potatoes to Russian Federation. Russia is currently the largest importing country of Pakistani potatoes. But due to quarantine issues, the Russian government banned the import of potatoes from Pakistan which badly hit our export as it is one of main exporting cash-crop of Pakistan. The exporters’ community witnessed very hard time not only in terms of financial aspect but also in country’s credibility context. But with the collective efforts of the recent government and the exporter’s community, Pakistan has again come in trade game.

Read more: Kinnow exports skyrocket: Exports to Indonesia boost to $48 million

Concluding the above facts, there is a dire need to bring a systemic change in our current agriculture practices. Adaptation of modern agricultural practices, export oriented cultivation of varieties, changing the trend of supply led production to demand driven agriculture, improving SPS (sanitary & phyto-sanitary) regime, encouraging value addition trends, catering international market demands and strengthening supply chain management will be some of the key areas which can anchor our horticulture industry in particular and agriculture in general in longer run.

Beenish S. Alvi is a law graduate. She’s running an export business of horticultural products. As a social activist, she endeavors to boost the export sector of Pakistan. The views expressed in this article are authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space. 


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