Horticulture and livestock could fetch billions of dollars: stakeholders

Horticulture and livestock, the most neglected sectors, if properly upgraded could turn the tables and fetch billions of dollars to meet the foreign exchange requirements, so desperately needed by the country under pressure, according to stakeholders here. 

Horticulture needs improvement in quality, post harvest care and cold chain infrastructure, while livestock suffers from lack of global food safety standards, cohesive supply chains and marketing system. Stakeholders explained that these two sectors which have unlimited potential need to be addressed as follows: Challenges which are increasing for horticulture, one of the most vibrant sub-sectors of agriculture, relate to the quality of produce. Unfortunately we have been riveted to increasing production and not so much on improving quality. 

They are unhappy with the performance of Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company (PHDEC) which carries the mandate to develop this sector. For all practical purposes it looks a ‘dormant’ body as it has nothing worthwhile to claim what it has contributed towards the development of this sector which has big potential of expanding and earning much needed foreign exchange for the country. Attempts made from time to time to seek information about its plans to enhance exports always remained unanswered and unattended. 

Pakistan needs to broaden its export horizons, and shipping higher volumes. The broader export strategy has helped boost significantly Pakistan’s export earnings. Foreign exchange earnings through fruit and horticulture exports have risen every year but a lack of post-harvest and cold chain infrastructure is seriously hampering Pakistan’s horticulture export potential. 

Similarly, lack of awareness among Pakistani exporters about global food safety standards, cohesive supply chains and marketing systems are to be blamed for keeping the country’s produce export volumes low. Ahmad Jawad, member, export committee, Islamabad Chamber of Commerce says if we take a look for a while, Pakistan is the 13th largest producer of citrus in the world. This crop has potential up to $400 million but currently it stands at around $100 million. At present, there is little or no government intervention and assistance to alter the situation. 

Since 2006/07 Australia is assisting Pakistan under the Agriculture Sector Linkages Program (ASLP) to overcome certain constraints in Pakistan’s agriculture exports sector but, surprisingly no fruitful progress is seen till date towards betterment of this crop. If we take the case of dates, Pakistan is one of 4th largest producer in the world and its exports could be enhanced up to $200 million with proper processing and packaging. Annual production of dates in Pakistan is estimated at around 535,000 tons, of which only 86,000 tons is exported and the rest is either consumed locally, or perishes for want of proper facilities. Since 1999, per acre yield of dates in Pakistan has not much increased, whereas the world-wide production has increased by 166 percent. 

Stakeholders demand that the government needs to pay urgent attention towards production, processing and quality enhancement, preservation, research and marketing facilities to save and ensure growth of this potent source of foreign exchange. They emphasised that this fruit is potent to make many more millions of dollars if care is taken and due attention is paid towards value-addition. Similarly Pakistan is the second largest country in “Guava” production after India. Recent research shows that it has stood to its potential as it has been named as one of the two fruits, which have maximum antioxidants. 

Pakistan’s guava production increased from 19,000 tons in 1958 to 552,000 tons in 2008; an annual growth rate of 6.9 percent. Pakistan’s major exports of guava are to UAE, UK, Saudi Arabia and Qatar whereas Canada is the largest importer of guava from Pakistan accounting for 26 percent of the total guava exports. 

Although Pakistan earns from guava about Rs 1 billion annually, a large portion of the crop is wasted due to short shelf life which could be saved, if value addition and processing plants are set up in the guava producing areas. It is unfortunate that Pakistan exports a negligible quantity of “apples” despite having potential of penetrating into the world apple market of 5 million tons. Owing to quality and standard crop yield Pakistan has sufficient potential to penetrate in the world market but there is need to develop this industry proper on proper lines. 

Pakistan experiences massive post harvest losses in this crop. Balochistan province has 102,300 hectares under cultivation and produces 220,000 tons of apples per year besides KP which also has a massive share in apple production. In the field of floriculture, Pakistan has lot of potential to develop. Market demand of floriculture products is growing fast. Pakistan is a country of small farming households, where floriculture is the best option to enhance the income for the poor. 

Floriculture is viewed as a lucrative enterprise for poverty alleviation. Some initiatives have also been taken for the promotion of floriculture to enter the global floriculture trade. Policymakers need to draw upon the experience of other countries. Every year we only stuck to organising flower shows in big cities to seek of tribute. We have favourable climate and cheap labour for growing these crops. They need much less land and water for production than other crops. Net profit on the investment is much higher for these crops compared with other conventional crops and though the products are in high demand all over the world, there is lack of resources and skilled persons to develop floriculture industry up to international standards. 

Pakistan had negligible share in world-wide floriculture trade despite having fertile lands and best irrigation system to venture in this enterprising business which not only generates rural employment, but also fetches precious foreign exchange. Pakistan earns almost Rs 35 million in this regard but the room for growth is still there. 

In order to compete with the world, we need to study the economic trends, such as shortage or over-supply of some flower species in particular seasons; as such factors result in changes in prices that may become too low to grow them economically. 

Stakeholders advised the government to issue directives to banks for issuing soft loans to boost this industry. Halal meet is another area which needs proper exploration. Pakistan which has 159 million animals should take speedy initiatives in the international Halal food market by complying with the international codes as it would not only lead to earning a big foreign exchange but also stabilise the national economy. 

Pakistan has extraordinary natural strengths, the country also faces massive infrastructure shortcomings which handicap the ability of many Pakistani businesses to effectively compete against firms from Australia, Brazil or even India.” The Halal food market, at just over $640 billion a year world-wide, is one of the largest opportunities in the food and agribusiness sector. Presently our total meat exports stand at around $100 million and could surpass the $500 million mark easily in about five years subject to Livestock Departments establishing latest infrastructure and work on the marketing techniques. 

Between 2001 and 2009, the global beef trade grew at an average of 10.4 per cent to reach just over $30 billion, according to data available from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). It looks very pathetic that Pakistan’s market share within this rapidly growing market is only 2.9 per cent. However, Pakistani exporters seem to be determined to have an increased share in this trade. 

Brazilian animal is exactly the same as most of our breeds of cattle. The quality of meat is also the same. The only difference is their ability to market their meat better than us. Pakistan can easily displace Brazil as the Middle East’s leading meat supplier. 

Stakeholders urged the government to support horticulture/livestock sector of Pakistan in order to enhance export volume in coming years with proper incentives and policy and also take progressive initiatives to venture for the exploitation of export potential and to search more markets like South American countries, North Africa, Central Asian states and South Asian region. “We are in a position to take up this industry into billions subject to proper determination and could contribute heavy amount to the national kitty which will help us to get rid of international donors,” stakeholders said. 

Copyright Business Recorder, 2012

Muhammad Ramzan Rafique
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique

I am from a small town Chichawatni, Sahiwal, Punjab , Pakistan, studied from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, on my mission to explore world I am in Denmark these days..

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