Despite having a strong agricultural base, Pakistan
still needs consolidation of its resources in this key sector to
translate its real potential in the economy.
The present government has taken care of the
agriculture sector including improvement in irrigation network,
incentives to the growers especially the major crops like cotton,
wheat, rice and sugarcane.
Although the export of cotton and cotton products,
rice, wheat and some fruits and vegetable are contributing
significantly to the economy, yet there is still room for improvement
especially on the export side.
Pakistan is a leading producer of quality mangoes,
citrus fruits especially kino, grapes and has already carved a
respectable place in the world market. This sector was confronted by
various irritants especially the heavy freight charges which did not
allow this sector to achieve the desired level of exports.
Pakistani fruits and vegetables despite having
demand in the world market could not achieve sustainable growth in
exports due to heavy freight charges leaving them uncompetitive in the
Recently, over 100,000 tons of potatoes were
perished in the store as the exporters were denied freight subsidy on
this perishable item. According to reports these potatoes were stored
in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Okara, Gujranwala, Hyderabad and Sukkur by
the exporters in anticipation of getting freight subsidy on their
exports. However, since the exporters failed to get freight subsidy
these potatoes were reportedly rotted in the stores.
The growers had stored these potatoes in the hope
that they will sell them to exporters when they get freight subsidy on
However, their hopes were perished along with the
stored potatoes. The grower might not get the actual price in the
local market due to decayed quality of the potatoes.
During the current season, over 650,000 potatoes
were produced which were not only enough to meet the local demand but
could spare a sizeable export surplus. In view of the export surplus,
the growers as well as the Fruit and Vegetable Processors and
Exporters Association has demanded to the Ministry of Commerce and
Export Promotion for freight subsidy on the export of potatoes so that
could be able to compete in the international market. Although the
request for freight subsidy was made some three months ago yet no heed
was paid to their demand. Although the Export Promotion Bureau had
moved the proposal for freight subsidy to the Ministry of Commerce,
however, the request was simply turned down by the Ministry of
According to Mateen Siddiqui, President of Fruit
and Vegetable Processors and Exporters Association, India, Netherlands
and Turkey are the major exporters of potatoes and have captured the
world market due to extremely low prices. In the face of tough
competition, Pakistan despite having an edge in terms of quality of
the produce was unable to compete with these countries due to freight
cost. Due heavy freight charges, the price of Pakistani potatoes comes
to around $106 per ton in Colombo as compared to 95 dollars offered by
Indian exporters. Pakistan had exported 125,000 tons of potatoes to
Sri Lanka, Dubai, Jordan, Muscat, Singapore and Malaysia.
The loss suffered by the growers this year could
have been avoided had the government allowed freight subsidy on their
exports which in turn could have contributed significantly.
It may be mentioned here that Pakistan is a major
producer of world class mangoes and citrus fruits, but could export
only 10 per cent of total production mainly due to heavy freight
Although the government has allowed 25 per cent
freight subsidy on the fruits and vegetable exports to the new markets
only while the subsidy is not allowed on the traditional or existing
international markets. As far as the production of mango was concern,
Pakistan produces over one million tons of different varieties. These
mangoes have a great market all over the world, yet the exporters
could hardly sell some ten per cent of the total produce due to high
cost of freight charges.
It is for the first time that the country has
achieved the export target which had become a psychological barrier
for over 55 years. The trade and industry feels that the country had a
great potential to excel in the export market provided they were
supported by the government on the genuine grounds.
The available export surplus provided by the
agriculture sector deserves timely support of the government policies
and decision so that whenever the agriculture sector produces some
export surplus in small areas they should be given instant support so
that the all export resources could be consolidated in the larger
Pakistan, being an agricultural country and at the
cross roads of India, Central Asia, and Middle East and located in the
center of regional markets of great importance. But the potential of
country in this field has largely remained untapped so far. We have to
remove all bottlenecks of the system so that best results could be
achieved for the betterment of the economy as well as the growers who
are the backbone of the economy.