‘Pakistan exports fruits, vegetable at lowest rates’

Karachi: The average export price per unit of fruit and vegetables earned by Pakistan is the lowest in the world due to low quality, said Chief Executive Officer of Harvest Trading Pakistan Ahmad Jawad on Wednesday.

He said that out of 14.5 million tons annual production of fruit and vegetables worth around $2 billion in Pakistan, over half a million tons worth $230 million is exported.

During the last decade, horticultural crop production has increased from 11.3 million tons to 13.7 million tons, which is expected to reach 19.4 million tons this year, he said.

Horticultural sector contributes about 12 percent to the national agricultural gross domestic product of Pakistan, he said. “But its growth and profitability is restrained mainly by the lack of proper post-harvest management and transport infrastructure,” he said.

An analysis shows that share of fruit and vegetables is 48.6 percent and 51.4 percent, respectively, in the total production. Citrus contributes 30 percent to the fruit production, mango 25 percent, dates and guava nine percent each and apple five percent. Potato contributes 29 percent to the vegetable production, onion 25 percent and tomato six percent.

An integrated ‘Cool Chain System’ project worth $153.73 million (Rs13.221 billion) has been planned to avoid annual wastage worth Rs60 billion, improve grading of produce and enhance its life.

The project, envisioned under National Trade Corridor Improvement Programme (NTCIP), is currently passing through different stages of government approval. The Punjab Board of Investment and Trade under an agreement with Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company is securing investments for launching the project in Punjab where eight modern pack houses with cold storage facilities, four cold storages, three airport storages and three testing labs would be set up in phases, he said.

The country-wide project aims at setting up a chain of 39 modern pack houses (including cold storage facilities) at 31 places, 23 cold storages (13 production areas, seven airports and three seaports) at 23 locations, two reefers or container yards with 200 containers and 50 CA containers each at Lahore and Karachi and six food testing laboratories in six production areas.

About 10 percent reduction in post-harvest losses under the new project would bring savings of Rs6 billion ($70 million) per annum equivalent to 50 percent of the project cost, he claimed.

Existing storage capacity in private sector meets requirement for seven percent of the total production.

Jawad said the implementation might take several months because of necessary approvals from Central Development Working Party, Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) and Cabinet Committee.

Some growers have set up their cold storages in Quetta, Bhalwal, Okara and other areas. The project will link all the growers in one chain.

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