EXPORTS POTENTIAL OF DATES
Export potential is yet to be explored
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Aug 30 - Sep 05, 1999
Pakistan produces 600 million tonnes of a large variety of fruits and 500 million tonnes of vegetables every year. However, 30 per cent of that goes waste due to lack of proper transportation, packaging storage and refrigeration facilities.
Although optimum level of benefit of these natural resources has yet to be achieved, the volume of production is growing every year as the area under cultivation has been increased by manifold. The ever growing demand of Pakistani fruits and vegetables suggests that there is a need to further increase productivity, introduction of new varieties of fruits and vegetables to maintain affordable prices at home and to get exportable surplus.
Apart from exports of traditional items like mango, kino which have earned a prominent place in the export sector, Pakistani dates also have potential to contribute to our export earnings respectably.
Pakistan is the 5th largest producer of dates with an estimated production volume of 583,000 tonnes out of which 403,584 tonnes is produced in Balochistan. The date producing areas in Balochistan are Turbat 235,344 tonnes, Panjgoor 128,070 tonnes, Gwadar 14,650 tonnes, Khuzdar 6,488 tonnes and Kharan 13,317 tonnes. Mazawati, Begum Jangi, Dashtiari, Haleni, Jamsober, Rabi, Sabzo and Gokna are the known varieties of dates produced in Pakistan.
The global production of dates is estimated at 4,834,000 tonnes.
Currently Pakistan is earning about $27 million annually by exporting 60,905 tonnes of dates against the total productions of 583,000 tonnes of dates indicating enough room to increase volume of export in this sector.
Pakistani dates have already made a place in the countries like India, Dubai, USA, Bangladesh, Germany, Indonesia, Canada, UK, Australia and Nepal. India is the largest importer of Pakistani dates.
The Export Promotion Bureau is of the view that Pakistani dates have the potential to increase export earnings from current $27 million dollars to at least $250 million a year with a slight more efforts.
Like other products, dates are also exported in bulk without carrying a brand name or label. Since modern marketing techniques have not been used for introducing the most delicious dates produced in some parts of Sindh and Balochistan, we are not getting the real value of our dates in the international market.
Currently the exporters are getting a price of $468 per tonne in the world market which is at least five time less than what the established marketing companies of other countries. For instance Algeria, which is also a major date producing country, is earning $3,500 per tonne of their products as compared to $468 of Pakistani dates in the export market. The only difference between Pakistani dates and dates of other countries is branded packaging. Earlier, multinational companies operating from Pakistan had earned a respectable place for Pakistani dates by selling them under the brand name of "Lipton" which helped Pakistani dates to capture the entire US market. For promotion of dates export from Pakistan brand names having a repute in the world market can be franchised.
Realizing the export potential in this sector, the Export Promotion Bureau is seriously considering to construct mettled roads between date producing areas in Balochistan especially in Turbat and Pasni and an exclusive mini port in Balochistan to give access to date exports to Persian Gulf countries. A ferry service between Karachi and Turban and also between Turbat and Gulf countries for marketing dates and other products is also under consideration. Setting up of an EPB office at Pasni to facilitate the exports from coastal areas is also being considered.
The Balochistan government is taking interest to increase exports of dates and has approved "Arrangements for Export of 425,000 tonnes of dates through Makran Dates projects". Apart from the immediate assistance to growers in lifting the present stock, a project has been proposed to provide growers a regular outlet for beneficial disposal of their product. In this connection following detailed study is being carried out:
* Ascertain variety-wise production of dates, local consumption and marketable surplus.
*Study harvest and post-harvest management practices including processing of dates at farm level subsequent levels along with distribution chain. Study existing market system including exports.
After completion of the above study, a project for washing, grading and packing plant at Turbat would be set up.
As earlier said, Pakistan produces over 600 million tonnes of a large variety of fruits. Value-addition in this sector by setting up processing, packaging and tinned juice plants can give a real boost to our exports.