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Balochistan’s assets – a source of competitive advantage for enhancing exports

Balochistan is the poorest province but it has huge potential in trade and commerce by virtue of its strategic location. A need is felt to exploit huge export potential in main sectors of provincial economy. It has tremendous potential for development of horticulture, particularly the fruit farms. There is a lot of potential for development in the livestock and dairy sectors, as the province can earn a substantial amount of income by exporting the products in these sectors to the lucrative markets in the food deficit region — Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Balochistan’s land along coastal belt has enormous potential for development of shrimp farming and processing projects, which can play a vital role in fisheries development in the province. For its huge mineral potential, the province is known as museum of minerals. As a regional hub of trade and commercial activity, Gwadar Port can provide a solid base for the economic progress of the province.

The fisheries export potential needs to be tapped fully and efficiently. The province makes up 70 percent of Pakistan’s total coastal line. It enjoys diversity of marine life in nature. Its coastline is the most productive marine ecosystem of the world. According to an estimate, 60 species of fish and 10 of shrimps, including the best in the world, are found in the province. It produces 200,000 tons of fish per year, of which 80,000 tons are fished by trawlers from Sindh.

Steps need to be taken on priority basis to introduce new technologies and impart training to the local fishermen for fishing on modern lines. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is committed to provide financial assistance of $25 million for development of fisheries in coastal districts of Gwadar and Lasbela in Balochistan. Under the program, the IFAD would provide financial assistance to help develop the rural infrastructure mostly in fisheries sector.

Previous government planned to construct 8 shrimp farms on the basis of private-public partnership in the province. Each model shrimp farm comprised of up to 100 pond units of 1-2 acres each, 75 per cent of these ponds were to be for private sector. Former government also planned to construct a model fish market in coastal town of Gwadar. The project was aimed at introducing intensive fish cage culture at Sabkzai and Mirani dams and developing the coastal areas and alleviating poverty in the province. The sites for shrimp farms and shrimp hatchery had been identified at Gadani, Dam Ormara, Pasni, Kalmat, Pishukan and Jiwani. Balochistan government was to allot around 500 acres of land free of cost at each site identified for the project.

Being a pastoral economy Balochistan is yet to exploit its tremendous potential in livestock sector. Animals are traditionally kept for meeting household milk and meat needs. Livestock development is linked with poverty alleviation in the province, as its 70 percent population is directly or indirectly involved in livestock rearing activities. The province is rich in livestock resources contributing about 40 per cent of Pakistan’s total livestock population. The main consumers of its livestock include leather, carpet and pharmaceutical industries. The province caters to the needs and demands of leather and carpet industries by sustaining the supply of hide and wool to these sectors.

 

Livestock contributes Rs20 billion with share of meat 40%, milk 35%, eggs 13%, skin, hides & wool 10% and others 2%. The province annually produces 28,000 tons of beef and 204,000 tons of mutton. Ironically, the provincial government allocates a nominal amount for the development of this sector, which is the primary sustainable source of living for over 70 percent of local population.

The province is endowed with rich reserves of gas, oil, lead, zinc, iron, marble, coal, gold and copper. The province is home to half of the country’s estimated gas reserves of 200 trillion cubic feet, as about 100 trillion cubic feet, according to one estimate, are found in the province. Sui gas field in Bugti tribal area accounts for a quarter of the country’s total output. Reko Diq copper and gold deposits in Chagai are believed to be even bigger than Sarcheshmeh in Iran and Escondida in Chile. It is one of the biggest untapped copper deposits on the globe. The copper-gold deposits at Saindak and Reko Diq in Chaghi have been estimated 78 million tones.

General Pervez Musharraf administration had proposed establishment of Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and granted 15km area in Chaghi for the status of EPZ. The decision had been taken to encourage foreign investment in mining of copper in Balochistan. The province possesses huge reserves of marble in Lasbela, Khuzdar and Chaghi districts. The onyx marble from Chaghi can meet the international standards and needs if it is processed efficiently. The induction of modern technology in marble sector will increase efficiency of processing units. Investments can be made in quarrying, processing and trading of marble products. The province possess huge reserves of chromite. Export of chromite produced from the province has remained a major source of foreign exchange earnings.

Balochistan is known as the fruit basket of Pakistan because of its production of high quality fruits in bulk. Export of fruits is considered a big source of foreign exchange. Pakistan enjoys robust position in world apple market. It is worth mentioning that a very good quality apple are available in Pakistan, 80% of which are produced in Balochistan, but unfortunately no treatment plant for their preservation was established by the successive governments in the past. The strategically located province offers access to new resources and markets and the prospect of more rapid growth. The province’s geo-strategic location makes it the most attractive for transit traffic to the landlocked Central Asian Republics (CARs). Gwadar Port would provide Afghanistan and the CARs the shortest and fastest access to the warm waters of the Arabian Sea.

The positive steps to increase fruit production and export from the province will increase the country’s foreign exchange reserves. The treatment plants serve the purpose of fruit preservation during off-season. The country will earn huge foreign exchange if these plants are established at different districts in coastal Balochistan.

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