PRE-EXPORT QUALITY CERTIFICATION

Quality and grading certification of the products like cotton, rice, wheat and fruits will help establishing credibility of Pakistan

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
 June 04 - 10, 2001

In an effort to enable the agriculture products to earn the price what they really deserve in the international market, the government has decided to allow the private sector inspection companies to certify quality specification and grading of cotton, rice, fruits, prior to their shipment from Pakistan.

The step is naturally advisable in view of the ever-growing competition in the choosy international market where quality and grade of the products is becoming a pre-requisite for the exporters to survive. Unfortunately, Pakistani products are not rated as the quality products due to lack of quality, grading and proper marketing campaigns. Hence they are unable to fetch the value they actually deserve for.

The best example of this market setback is related to Pakistan's Basmati rice.

Zubair Motiwala, President Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) told PAGE that some Indian traders taking advantage of the situation, buying Pakistani rice in Dubai and selling under Indian brand "Taj Mahal" at a much higher price than the Pakistani rice are fetching in the market.

KCCI chief feels that quality and grading certification of the products like cotton, rice, wheat and fruits by the companies of international repute will help establishing credibility of Pakistan products in the international market. He however expressed the hope that permission to private companies will not be a repeat story of Cotecna and SGS the two foreign companies appointed by the then government for pre-inspection purpose which instead facilitating the exports had created hurdles for exporters.

Zubair Motiwala pointed out that promotion of "Made-in-Pakistan" culture would be an added advantage of the quality certification of Pakistani products meant for exports. A quality and grading certificate issued by the reputed international companies will increase demand of Pakistani products in the international market beside facilitating the exports in terms of value and volume, he remarked. He said that export sector is required to be equipped well with all relevant accessories to meet the challenges which are in store in the face of globalization of trade under WTO regime in near future.

Shakoor Dada, Chairman of Karachi Cotton Association (KCA) has also welcomed the move of the ministry of commerce allowing the private sector companies for pre-export certification of certain exportable items from Pakistan.

Talking about quality and grade of Pakistani cotton, Shakoor said that contamination in cotton starts right from the initial stage due to improper picking of cotton bolls. The certification companies will be required to oversee the picking process initiated from fields to ginning factories to ensure quality and grading of the cotton. He said that modalities of the cost of certification or inspection have not been evolved so far, however those willing to get their products certified would naturally bear the cost of certification.

Regarding the size of the current cotton crop, Shakoor said that unofficial assessment of the crop comes to around 10.5 million bales this year. He said that an official announcement in this respect is expected within a day or two. During the current year, Pakistan exported about 6 lakh bales of cotton; the size of export is likely to gain further especially in view of the improved quality and grading of cotton by international certification companies.

Meanwhile, Razzaq Dawood, federal minister for commerce has said that initially private companies have been allowed for inspection and grading of cotton. This would enable the cotton growers to get a better price of their produce in accordance with quality and standards besides enabling Pakistani cotton to be traded as a graded product in the Liverpool Cotton Exchange where it was now being rejected due to contamination.

Simultaneously, the government strengthening Pakistan Cotton Standard Institute (PSI) but private sector inspection and grading would play an important role in export. The minister said that Pakistan was losing around $150 million every year due to contaminated cotton that is being traded as second grade product,

The minister said that pre-qualification of international companies for the grading purpose would be done next month who would also be responsible to establish cotton testing labs in Multan, Rahimyar Khan and Sahiwal.

These companies would issue grading certificates to growers. The growers would then go to ginners and get the price according to the grades. The minister said that a lot of fruit and vegetable did not meet the export standard and eventually the country is in the loss.

To meet international market standards, Pakistan would have to ensure quality and regular supply of products and to ensure quality in all these fields. Pakistan will take at least five years, said the minister adding that the culture of quality and standard needed to be introduced in the country to harness full fruit of available resources.