KINNO: A BUMPER CROP THIS YEAR

Due to ambiguity in the policies, a sizeable market has been lost in the Far Eastern countries

By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Jan 20 - 26, 2003

Despite harvesting a rich kinno crop in Pakistan, the overall export of the citrus fruit is feared to experience a sharp decline owing to lower demand in the Far Eastern countries this year.

The Far Eastern countries especially, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka are the major buyer of about 90 per cent of the total exports from Pakistan.

The month of December and January are considered as the peak of the season which usually gets accelerated with the annual festival of Chinese New Year which begins from the month of February. Chinese people living in a vast majority in the Far Eastern countries take kinno as their religious fruit which not only enjoy by eating but also throw in the sea as the part of their prayer for a prosperous future.

The total exports of kinno in terms of volume was estimated at 121,000 tons while in terms of value the total export had fetched $20 million last year. It is unfortunate that these perishable items may not be able to repeat the previous year's performance due to various factors.

Matin Siddiqui, Chairman of Association of Fruit Exporters and Processors of Pakistan says that due to ambiguity in the policies regarding value addition and packaging, a sizeable market has been lost in the Far Eastern countries this year.

Elaborating his point of view about loss of the market, Matin said that earlier the ministry of commerce had decided that exporters should use paper cartons for export of kinno and other fresh fruits to improve quality and image of the exports from Pakistan.

Accordingly, the exporters in line with the government policy, imported paper cartons in bulk and also informed their importers about the difference in price due to change of packaging material from wooden crates to paper cartons. While this scheme of value-addition was in its half way, the ministry of commerce suddenly allowed exports in wooden crates simultaneously with paper carton. Since the confusion created due to difference in prices of the two different consignments i.e. in wooden crates and the paper cartons, the buyers were thoroughly confused and stopped placing orders. Consequently, the kinno exports to the Far Eastern countries are likely to drop even to 50 per cent as compared to the last year.

Matin said that there is a full fledged government organization namely Export Promotion Bureau (EPB) and recently constituted Horticulture Board in which the private sector has been given full representation, are working to facilitate the export business in the country. Let these bodies to work independently. However, over riding attitude of the ministry of commerce in the export business not only hampers the smooth flow but amounts distract it out of the track. He suggested that the two bodies be entrusted to facilitate the export of fruits from Pakistan for getting better results.

WOODEN CRATES

In view of the growing international demand for packaging of the fresh fruits in paper cartons instead of the wooden crates in line with the quality standards and to avoid bacteria or other diseases, Pakistan in principle had already decided to shift from wooden to paper cartons. However, permission given by the ministry of commerce for wooden crates had puzzling effects on the exporters who had fully switched to the paper cartons, said Matin.

Meanwhile, the visiting experts from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) have also suggested to the Government of Pakistan to ban wooden crates for exports of citrus fruits and vegetables to meet the international standards.

The visiting experts on perishable items, refrigerated transport Alexandre La Rosa has suggested to the Export Promotion Bureau to ensure compliance of the required standards regarding handling, storage and transportation of fresh fruits, vegetables and other perishable items. The UNCTAD, trade and facilitation project is a World Bank funded project to provide advisory services to various governments.

Currently, the packing for export of kinno has become a controversy between the two exporting groups. One group which has imported paper cartons after paying what they described heavy import duty is finding itself in a fix as the other group which is exporting in wooden crates is getting advantage of the less packaging cost. It may be noted that all exports of fresh fruits to the Western countries is already shifted to the paper cartons while the some of the Far Eastern countries have also given a deadline till the end of the current year to completely shift from wooden to paper carton otherwise imports of fresh fruits in wooden crates would be completely banned. Colombo has also given the similar warning to the exporters in Pakistan not to use wooden crates.

Exports of fruits in Pakistan mostly comprise of citrus, mangoes and dates, which constitute around 91 per cent of total fruit export from Pakistan. The trends for these three major fruits show a continuous rise in quantity and value. The marketable surplus in the case of fruits is 80 per cent of total production. The total losses from farm to the consumer range between 25-35 per cent.