United States Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson Monday reiterated the US government commitment to scale up Pakistan’s mango sector and help the country’s national fruit find a place in the international market. Addressing the 2013 Annual Mango Conference and Festival here, he said that direct support from USAID, in terms of on-farm infrastructure up-gradation, market linkages and acquisition of international certifications, accounts for an overall increase in sale of $20.5 million.
“Exports are up to 172 percent, which is a phenomenal five-fold increase in the value of exports to over $5.8 million,” he added. “Today’s event is a tribute to the mango, offering us the opportunity to reflect on the US government’s commitment to scale up Pakistan’s mango sector and to help the country’s national fruit find a niche in the international trade market,” he said.
He said that the US began its agricultural partnership with Pakistan in 1960, when USAID brought citrus fruit seeds from the United States to Pakistan and introduced the now famous Kino. “Today, Pakistan has an incredibly vibrant fruit market. In Pakistan, the mango is more than a fruit. It symbolises the country’s rich horticulture, its exotic climate and its diversity…For me, the mango embodies Pakistan’s traditional hospitality and for Pakistanis, it inspires passion and festivity; heralding the season of summer; the time of abundance and prosperity,” Olson remarked.
With USAID assistance, he added, the mango sector is expanding beyond just growing quality mangoes and exporting them to international markets. It has scaled-up the industrial production of dried mangoes to 83 tons annually from 2009 when USAID started working with mango growers, he added.
This effort has led to trial shipments of dried mango products samples, including dried mango slices, mango leather and mango candy, to the United States and to other countries in Europe and Asia, Olson said. He said that the development of the mango sector was part of a larger US government commitment to Pakistan’s agricultural sector, adding the results of that commitment have resulted in increased employment and incomes for 800,000 farming households, representing over five and a half million Pakistanis.
With USAID support, he said that the farmers have irrigated one million acres of land and have connected to major agri-businesses who help them sell their goods. “The US government remains focused on the partnership with Pakistani colleagues to strengthen the country’s private sector. We support Pakistan’s efforts to develop internationally competitive firms to accelerate sales, investment and job growth, particularly in the agriculture sector…This co-operation is helping Pakistan build economic prosperity for its people,” the envoy added.
Speaking on the occasion, Secretary Commerce Qasim Niaz thanked the US government for the support to mango growers and producers that has led to increased productivity and jobs for the Pakistani people. “A relationship that is based on trade, not just aid, is one that we will look forward to in our relationship with the United States,” said the.
He, however, said that Pakistan’s prime focus was on export of textile goods for which the government was making efforts to get access to the markets of the US and EU countries. He said that the US government major focus was to promote the small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which were also contributing to the country’s economy. The USAID Firms Project has invested USD 5.8 million in Pakistan’s mango sector, providing much needed support for new infrastructure and marketing assistance to help farmers sell their products globally.
Since 2009, the US government has invested more than USD 230 million to fund projects that support the growth of Pakistan’s agriculture sector, including training 31,000 people in Punjab and Sindh in dairy related operations, vaccinating 1,20,000 cattle against foot and mouth disease and helping 12,000 farmers in Balochistan increase their incomes by 40 percent, by boosting productions and sales.
In his presentation, Dr Waqar Ahmad, senior specialist, value chain development, USAID Firms Project, said that the global trade volume of the mangoes was approximately $1.5 billion while Pakistan was the fifth major exporter with 1.8 million tons annual production.
However, he stressed the need for government’s increased focus on export of mangoes, adding that Pakistan was producing world best quality mangoes. The participants of the conference were informed that Pakistan’s mango sector represents four percent of the world’s total production and contributes $150 million per year to the country’s GDP. The Firms Project has estimated that the 2006 to 2015 cumulative opportunity cost of market inefficiency in Pakistan mango exports is approximately US $674 million.