POOR PREPARATIONS HAMPERING MANGO EXPORTS TO CHINA

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
June 20 - 26, 2005

Despite the tall claim made by the Federal Minister of Commerce, Humayun Akhtar Khan, for making a quantum leap in exports by sending a 'huge' mango quantity to China after signing the protocol, the Pakistani mango exporters are yet to get any order from Chinese buyers in spite of the start of harvesting season, sources said here .

However, Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEP) is still dreaming to export 5,000 tons to China while formulating the mango export marketing strategy 2005, whereas about 250 tons of Indian mango was exported to China last year, which got sold in Beijing and Shanghai markets within two hours.

The sources said that the PHDEP has yet to make arrangement in sending any trial shipment for the current season. The last year's shipment to China was duly rejected for the lack of proper quality fruit.

China has recently given market access to Pakistani mangoes with the condition that the fruit must be treated through hot water dip for one hour at 48 degree Celsius temperature to sterilise fruit fly eggs. In addition, the mangoes should be packed in 5 kilograms new corrugated boxes clearly indicating the area of production, farm name, count and weight in the Chinese language.

The exporters told this reporter that there has been no or very little co-ordination between the stakeholders and the Horticulture Export Board, which had been formulating the so-called marketing strategy for export promotion by sitting in its office.

Exporters said that a trial shipment should have been sent to China by the PHDEP during May, involving PPD and the exporter (one South African company has shown interest in sending a trial shipment on consignment basis through their network). However, the Board had failed till date in finalising any arrangement.

Talking about lack of infrastructure, the exporters say that scarcity in storage and transportation infrastructure resulted in about 73 per cent post harvest losses that shrinks supply and put pressure on prices as lost quantities never reach consumers. They said that the prevention of such losses can provide exportable surplus.

Exporters said that the PHDEP had to make arrangements for disinfestations against fruit flies in collaboration with PARAS, CABI & PPD using irradiation, hot water dip & vapour heat treatment methods under the Research and Development head. They said that PHDEP had yet to make any arrangement for enhancing shelf life of irradiated mangoes in collaboration with PARAS & UAF, besides chilling injury at different temperature regimes in collaboration with UAF.

The sources further said that signing of protocols with China had opened access to new markets for Pakistan and the product was to be exported duty free, providing the country a competitive edge over other competitors.

Exporters say that besides looking at the potential demand for mangoes it is important to evaluate the required infrastructure to support the demand. Presently, only one unit has been registered with Chinese quarantine department, which is allowed to process and export to China while two are in the process of being registered.

Exporters said that the initial response in China was very positive as the fruit was preferred to the local and other imported mangoes. There is a huge potential but it depends upon certain critical factors. One of the key factors is the price, which mainly depends on the mode of transportation i.e. through land or sea. Secondly, proper infrastructure i.e. production capacity with appropriate technology (registered processing units) is required to support the increasing demand.

Talking about the experiment to increase shelf life, the exporters said that the PHDEP has yet to take initiative in collaboration with UAF research for enhancing mango shelf life.

About the increase in the number of registered units for increasing production capacity for exports, the exporters said that at present only one unit had been approved and registered with Chinese quarantine department, whereas two other units, IAC and Durrani Associates, were under process, which had been in need of PHDEP assistance.

Exporters said that if the trial shipment proves successful it should be transformed into commercial shipments, which were expected to start in June. The exporters pointed out that promotional activities were urgently required before the season.

They said that the Board has yet to develop any kind of brochures in Chinese language for distribution of sample mangoes in special small boxes (branding).

Exporters said that after the famous `Dossehri' mango of Sindh which gained liking the world over for its taste and aroma, `Chaunsa', another mouth-watering variety, is in much demand in offshore markets. Known for its gentle sweetness and a fair average size, Chaunsa has been successfully exported to England and several European countries with demands for the variety pouring in frequently. The popularity of Chaunsa depends upon the fact that each fruit normally weighed more than 300 grams with its thick, golden-yellow skin. "Moreover, its shelf life is longer than other varieties like `Langda', which is very delicious but highly perishable under export conditions," they said.