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Where do we stand in branding vegetables and fruits?

Branding a product is a buzz-word across the globe which brings about value of the product. In the brand-conscious society like that of ours to some extent, branding fruits and vegetables may bring optimal benefits for the poor vegetable and fruit growers around the country.

It would be great if someone at the helm of affairs may tell the value of brands to our otherwise uneducated agro-based community by apprising them of only a few brands such as Nike, Apple, Samsung etc. If these brands don’t go well with them, big basket may be referred which says buy farm fresh fruits and vegetables online at the best prices.

Pakistan has to work on branding of agri-products and work on war-footing since the share of Pakistan in fruits, vegetables and juice exports is less than one percent of over $114 billion global exports. Pakistani products don’t fetch even one billion dollars a year though we are an agricultural country. This may be considered as culpable negligence on the part of those responsible.

Around a couple of years ago, some businessmen invested Rs1.3 billion in upgradation of pack houses for fruits and vegetables, setting up hot water treatment units, ethylene chambers, vapor heat treatment plants and pulp units. Major investment was made in setting up of 43 pack houses.

It was great initiative, however, it is too little too late since the world is far ahead of us and we need to catch it sooner rather than later. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics says fruit exports stood at 645,304 tonnes fetching $382 million in 2016-17 as compared to 676,531 tonnes earning $427 million in 2015-16. Vegetables exports fell to 623,626 tonnes ($186 million) in 2016-17 from 701,050 tonnes ($213 million) in 2015-16. A lot is to be done to enhance the exports. Pakistan’s total production of vegetables increased by around half a million tonnes from 4.5 million tonnes in 2010-11 to 5 million tonnes a couple of years back.

Though we are an agricultural country and around 55% population lives in rural areas, whenever there is an increase in fuel prices, it drives up already high prices of fruits and vegetables. Does this justify in an agro-based country?

 

Pakistan grows very high quality fruits such as orange, mango, apple, apricot, banana, cherry, dates, guava, peach, lemon, litchi, papaya, olive, mulberry, plums, pear, pomegranate, strawberry, sweet lime, and a lot of dry fruits including almonds, pistachios and walnuts. What efforts have been made by the concerned authorities to market these products across the world to benefit the economy of Pakistan.

When it comes to packaged foods, one cannot get any bigger than Nestlé, the largest packaged food company in the world. Can we learn a bit from its success? If not from it, let’s have a look at some of the leading brands in the world. Dole Food Company is perhaps the world’s largest producer of fruit and vegetables with revenues in billions of dollars, which is a far cry from its modest beginnings in Hawaii back in 1851. Dole operates as producer, buyer or seller in over 90 countries around the world. One of the best brands of organic fruits and vegetables is Cascadian Farm, which produces mostly frozen fruits and vegetables. Whole Foods 365 brand sells canned, fresh, and frozen assortments of a variety of different vegetables. Earthbound Farms produces a wide variety of fresh and frozen varieties of fruits and vegetables. Let me tell you that not now but around two decades ago, Six US Produce Companies with annual sales of $13 billion included Dole Food Company, $4.3 billion sales in 1997; Chiquita Brands International $2.4 billion; C.H. Robinson Worldwide $1.8 billion; Fresh Del Monte Produce $1.2 billion; Sunkist Growers $1 billion; Tanimura & Antle $1 billion; FreshPoint $800 million and Fresh America $350 million.

The share of agriculture is over 22% in the GDP worth $300 billion of our country. We need to have a look at France which is considered the food basket of Europe and one of the most modern economies of the world. Pakistan may focus on agriculture as well as on modernization of its industrial sector simultaneously. The focus is supposed to be on our strength which is agriculture and we need to develop larger than life brands to cope with the problems being faced by us. The relevant ministry is supposed to wake up from the deep slumber and take Pakistan to the height of glory. Sincere and professional efforts would bring about concrete results to address our woes.

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