The Department of Agriculture & Agribusiness Management, Karachi University (DAAM-KU) has assured Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) that it was ready not only to share research work, analysis and testing results but also share “hydroponic technology” for improving yield/acre to push exports of fruits and vegetables to iconic heights.
The assurance was given by Professor Dr Saleem Shahzad, Chairman, DAAM-KU in a meeting with Chairman and Secretary General, Waheed Ahmed and Mohammad Ilyas Khan respectively of the PFVA held at DAAM here on Monday. Full time co-operation teachers Shahan Aziz, Muhammad Mujeeb, and Assad Manzoor also participated in the meeting.
This was the second in the series of meetings conceived by PFVA to highlight the importance of research and development (R&D) in the export of fruits and vegetables which has tremendous potential in the world markets but suffered due to a lack of these facilities. Following the first meeting with the Director General, PCSIR, it was yet another step in the well defined direction for R&D. The objective behind this meeting was to seek technical assistance, advice and support of the agriculture department of the Karachi University in setting up R&D facilities for PFVA. Yet another aim was to get familiar with the research & development work and assess the degree of contribution DAAM – KU could make to the PFVA in R&D.
The agenda of this meeting was to: share concern of PFVA about the issues / problems related to export of fruits and vegetables, share vision of PFVA about R and D in this segment of agribusiness, seek technical assistance, advice and support of the KU in establishment of R and D facilities for the PFVA, and get familiar with the KU research work with a view to get help from them in the future for our Industry Chairman, PFVA briefed Chairman, DAAM (KU) and his team about the structure and role of PFVA as a registered trade body. He explained various issues and problems the exports of PFVA are confronted with related to low production, quality, and standards, various diseases in fruits / vegetables and lack of R&D for product development. Following other points were also raised:
— Exporters are greatly dependent on the growers and their main concern besides quality and standard of produce is “low production” (low yield / acre) which if not taken seriously would lead to an alarming situation where we would be unable to meet even the requirement of our local population what to talk of exports.
— New varieties, product development, quality, standards and various diseases are core issues which are required to be addressed seriously. We certainly need support, assistance and guidance from such institution like yours to overcome these problems. Your research work can help us to get some issues resolved.
— Continuous R and D is the only key solution to ensure consistent growth of this Industry. While this would enhance existing export revenue from US 525 Million to over USD 07 Billion during a period of a decade. The expansion in this industry would subsequently lead to creation of plenty of jobs opportunities for young agri-graduates.
— Our growers have a certain “mind-set” and their reluctance to adopt good Agriculture practices and non-familiarity with the new trend of standards, quality, high yield and produce preservation techniques are required to be addressed and your institution can certainly play a vital role in this context.
— The communication gap between the growers and exporters is another hurdle in the enhancement of exports and this gap can be bridged by your institution by conducting Seminars / Workshops for both the stakeholders on a regular basis.
— Our industry (Fruits & Vegetables) is working on a primitive inaccurate method of “Estimation and approximation” while there is a dire need to work on an “accuracy basis” for achieving encouraging results in exports.
— Currently the stakeholders (growers, exporters, customs, Plant protection department, A.N.F and transportation organisations etc) are working independently in different directions affecting exports badly. If all of them work in the same direction, it would tremendously enhance exports and to achieve that “defined direction”, your institution can also play a vital role to get them on “the same page” by conducting workshops.
— The exporters are unaware of your research work in this field (agribusiness) which again indicates lack of communication between the two important entities. Sharing this vital information regularly would help exporters to get familiar with a solution to various existing diseases in fruits/ vegetables hampering exports.
— No serious efforts have so far been made to work on product development, quality, high yield and, new varieties and your feedback / contribution to initiate efforts would certainly be required.
— To justify Pakistan as an agriculture country, we have to follow foot-steps of two neighbouring countries – China and India, both are feeding over a billion plus population because of good agriculture practices coupled with continuous R &D.
— We are exporting mainly four agro-items namely, mangos, kinnows, onions and potatoes. The question is why can’t we export 20 different items (fruits and vegetables)? The answer is very simple that if we can not increase production (high yield) to bring the cost factor down to a reasonable level, we just can not compete in international markets.
— Value -addition (Pulp, Concentrate etc) is another neglected area with great potential to earn foreign exchange and the DAAM – KU research work can provide guidance to enhance exports in this segment of business by attracting exporters towards this segment.
At the close of briefing, Chairman, PFVA assured that they’d extend assistance to DAAM- KU in the following areas:
— PFVA would offer internship to the students of this faculty (Agriculture) so that they could acquire practical experience related to this specific field by working with leading exporters, and
— PFVA would try to accommodate job opportunities to the capable graduates of DAAM-KU.
Waheed Ahmed thanked the Chairman, DAAM (KU) & his team for sparing time for the PFVA and listening to his briefing with utmost patience and keen interest. He further requested that PFVA and DAAM (KU) sign a M.O.U. to work closely together in future.
Chairman, DAAM (KU) in his welcoming remarks appreciated a positive and healthy approach of the Chairman, PFVA and thanked him for this detailed briefing, acknowledging his serious concerns and foresightedness to get the issues resolved though R & D.
He assured that possible guidance; support and assistance would be provided to the PFVA in addressing the current / future issues related to agriculture produce mainly fruits / vegetables. Chairman, DAAM (KU) highlighted the following points:
— Though we are working on a limited scale for Fruits and Vegetables, nevertheless we are ready to share research work, analysis and testing results with the PFVA.
— As and when the PFVA brings any specific issue to our attention, we would render all possible guidance and assistance in resolving that issue.
— We can share “Hydroponic Technology” with the PFVA for improving the yield / acre.
— The DAAM – KU would be pleased to conduct workshops to educate the growers.
— The DAAM-KU is working on various plants’ diseases and corrective measures using non-chemical (biological) approach.
Chairman, DAAM (KU) further shared that currently their department was actively carrying out research on the insect named “Thrips” found in bitter gourd (Kareela). Through research it has now been concluded that this is a pre-harvest stage issue and we are already working on natural methodology to eliminate this insect through biological control (non -chemical natural methods).
In his concluding remarks, he again thanked chairman, PFVA and assured him of all possible assistance, support and guidance as and when required. He also offered conducting a session in the PFVA on Monday (July 29, 2013) for exporters to make them aware of the research work DAAM-KU has done so far.