Pakistan being an agro-based economy imports vegetables, cotton and many other agro products which must be a primary concern for those who would like to address the issue of current account deficit. One of the foremost issues in this regard is post-harvest losses in the wake of the paucity of the proper and modern storage facilities particularly in the areas or the adjacent areas where major crops are grown. Pakistan experiences staggering 40 percent loss of crops due to the dearth of warehouses. Farming community’s perennial ordeals comprise post-harvest losses, rains and floods, windstorms, hailstorms, pest attacks, water shortages, a delay in official procurement etc. Around half the labor force is dependent on agriculture in Pakistan which makes this sector pivotal for the economic distress or progress. The farming community due to the neglect is contingent up on the mercy of weather. Weather conditions make or break the farming community every year since times immemorial, however, nothing seems to be working in terms of protection of the produce as such.
The world is geared-up to address insecurity of food whereas it is unfortunate to witness one-third of the agriculture produce rotting every year without any heed paid by the concerned authorities. Economy suffers by virtue of poor warehousing since whether preserving seed stocks or storing grains is an uphill task for small farmers.
Dearth or almost non-availability of public sector cold storage facilities has wreaked havoc in terms of rotten fruit and vegetables. Cold storages run by the private sector are far beyond the affordability of millions of growers. Pakistan faces losses of 20 percent of the total milk production owing to lack of cold storages and transportation through open non-refrigerated unhygienic trucks. Pakistan is the 4th largest milk producing country globally with 42 million tonnes of milk every year, however, no benefit has been derived from this opportunity.
Pakistan by maintaining proper cold storage facilities could add value to the product and become one of the leading exporting countries for dairy products and chip in enormous revenue to the kitty. Rice is one the foremost Kharif crops in Pakistan contributed by Sindh and Punjab. Annual rice production is approximately 7 million tones, however, poor storage warehousing facilities on the part of the government procurement agency as well as outdated storage methods such as open-air sheds or dome-shaped semi-concrete structures applied by the farming community in many parts of the country lead to poor quality and at times infestation in summer whereby leaving adverse impact on the exports to multiple destinations in the world. Despite exporting around 4 million tonnes which is almost half the production, Pakistan has not won accolades due to poor value addition and non-availability of storage facilities. One could see plenty of farmers storing grains in gunny bags since they are not cognizant of adopting modern technologies to avoid post-harvest losses.
Simultaneously, wheat output in Pakistan is over 25 million tonnes and Pakistan could export at least 5 million tonnes and earn revenue, however, to say the least this major crop faces exactly same conundrums. Pakistan produces even million tonnes of sugar and could export bulk of this produce contributing to the economic well-being of the country. Storage facilities of some sugar mills visited by PAKISTAN & GULF ECONOMIST seem far better since the mill owners do it on their own because of their financial muscles. On the contrary the farmers are the major sufferers every year in this regard.
One must notice that though there is relative turnaround, yet the Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) warehouses are not as befitting as they should be. We lag far behind which has led us to dwindling exports. The only way to success is to have modern storage facilities. There are certain progressive growers who have made investments and are using small steel silos for storing grains, which has helped them to the hilt from the havoc of the weather. It is time that the government should construct bulk storage facilities across the country to save the perishable produce and export the surplus subsequently. Public private partnership could play a crucial role in the construction of silos complexes and on-farm storage facilities. Non-availability of cold storage facilities must be addressed at the earliest to turn around the core sector of the economy neglected so far.