ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has yet to take an appropriate share of the global pie in horticultural exports, despite the fact that global horticultural trade has quadrupled in two decades to more than $ 200 billion in 2019, said the chairman of the FPCCI Standing Committee on Horticultural Exports, Ahmad Jawad.

Speaking to APP on Saturday, he said that since 1947 the agricultural sector has received inconsistent attention.

There have been periods of great development, but it can be argued that the last two decades have been worse for agriculture.

Research by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) found that total factor productivity, one of the most informative measures of agricultural productivity, has been negative over the past two decades.

This shows that our growth is now dependent on inputs or the increase in cultivated areas.

He said that according to the 2010 agricultural census, 78 percent of farmers in Pakistan have land holdings of less than 7.5 acres.

Wheat, cotton, corn, sugar cane and rice are the main crops grown by these farmers.

These crops are labor intensive and mechanization plays a small role.

This means that the seedlings of these traditional crops offer little competitive advantage for these subsistence farmers compared to high value-added agriculture.

Therefore, it is high time to capitalize on the opportunities offered by horticulture and it must be given a central role in order to stimulate the growth of agriculture.

According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), rising living standards and population growth will increase the demand for horticultural products by 70 percent during the thirty coming years.

He said Pakistan retains only 1.5 percent of world citrus exports and 2.8 percent of world potato exports; However, by improving our production methods, our seed varieties, our processing infrastructure and the quality of our products, we could easily export $ 2.2 billion worth of horticultural products over the next two years.

Jawad added that Egypt provides a good case study for Pakistan to learn by implementing a sustainable agricultural development strategy since 2009, Egypt has focused on conquering export markets for its horticultural products. and currently exports approximately $ 3.2 billion of oranges, grapes, potatoes, strawberries. and onions to the Russian Federation, the European Union and the Middle East.

Jawad was of the opinion that: Pakistan has the potential to export processed citrus products and potato fries and crisps, but the unavailability of industrial grade varieties, excess production and processing capacity have were the constraining constraints for the manufacture of quality food products for export.

He said Pakistan must increase production by improving yields and securing exportable surplus crops.

Currently, the focus is on supplying the domestic market.

India was one of the key players in this industry thanks to added value, but over the past 70 years the relevant ministries have not worked aggressively on it, the biggest downfall started when we transferred agriculture and its related sectors to the provinces through the 18th Amendment.

He said that currently the Pakistani horticultural sector suffers from low yields compared to its peer countries, unavailability of seeds necessary for the production of industrial-grade fruits and vegetables, weak enforcement of contracts for the contract farming, poor on-farm sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards enforcement, inadequate post-harvest infrastructure for packaging, handling and transportation, lack of protocols for health and safety standards certifications and uninsured supply in raw materials for processors.

However, under the CPEC, China is potentially an important export destination for Pakistani fruit products, but exports are limited due to the strict SPS compliance requirements enforced by China.

For example, citrus fruit trade is not allowed via land and air routes to China, and therefore Pakistan must transport its mandarins by sea to ports in eastern China, increasing costs and time.

It would be cheaper and easier to export by land, which is not yet pending a quarantine agreement between Pakistan and China.

Likewise, links between industry and academia would be profitable in improving horticultural exports.

This was a prerequisite for transforming the agricultural sector into a high-tech industry and enabling it to be competitive globally.

“As a developing country, we can generate excess wealth from the links between industry and academia (IAL).

It has a wide array of benefits that can influence universities, businesses, society, and the nation.

The benefits linked to society through IAL are numerous, he added.

The Pakistan Horticultural Development and Export Corporation (PHDEC) initially worked well, but the latter is now practically inactive, he said.

He said it was high time the government announced certain incentives, i.e. owners or operators should only get leased land in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) on a 15-year basis. , which would be a big boost to the reduction of infrastructure in the horticultural sector.

“I have to say that Pakistan needs to develop a coherent national policy for horticultural development that incorporates the views of all stakeholders, namely farmers, input service providers, agricultural traders and traders. provincial and federal governments. Seed certification scheme, rapid approval of crop protection chemicals that are safe and the development and adoption of quality standards for horticultural products are the main areas to work on, ”he said.

“A growing and developed horticultural sector can create employment opportunities for the rural poor, improve household incomes, provide people with quality fruits and vegetables and open up export opportunities,” he added. .

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