July 30 - Aug 05, 2007

The stringent standards for export are blocking entry of Pakistani mango into the US, Russian and Japanese markets. Japan has linked the opening of its market for Pakistani mango with the fulfillment of all the requirements notified under the Sanity and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) system, which had resulted into complete wiping out of the produce from the Japanese market. The Russian government has also imposed ban on import of mango from Pakistan. US sanitary and phyto-sanitary laws have also blocked Pakistani mango into the US.

Islamabad is facing a series of obstacles for its agriculture produce in the global market. Access for many commodities is restricted through tariff rate quota - some 1,300 such quotas are currently in place. About 70 per cent of current tariff rate quotas cover products that Pakistan is interested in exporting.

Presently, Pakistan can export to Japan only the farm products, which are also subject to either higher tariffs or non-tariff barriers. For not fulfilling the set standards, Pakistan exports to Japan have been steadily on decline for the last many years. During the year 2006, Pakistan's export to Japan declined by more than seven per cent. According to Pakistan Horticulture Development Export Board (PHDEB), the government of Japan has agreed to provide assistance in building capacity of Pakistani mango exporters. Last month, the Japanese minister during the visit to Pakistan had agreed to provide assistance in this regard. Japan would also help enhance Pakistani fruit exports to other markets as well where import standards were equally strict.

The Russian government among other agriculture products also imposed ban on import of mango from Pakistan but the Pakistani ministry of commerce has yet to take up the issue with them.

The US had recently allowed import of mangoes from both Pakistan and India. Pakistan is not going to benefit from the current mango boom in the subcontinent, as Pakistani mango exporters are not fully prepared to comply with the US fulfillment of US quarantine requirements. Islamabad will have to wait for at least one-and-a-half year to formally start export of mangoes to United States because of legal delays on the part of Washington.

An experts' team from United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently visited Pakistan and raised 8 to 10 quality conditions. Islamabad could convince them only on two conditions, including irradiation plant at Lahore and hot water treatment plant at Karachi for fruit fly treatment. The US administration would make necessary laws and inspect irradiation facilities in Pakistan before allowing import of mango.

According to the official sources in Islamabad, the US has some tough quarantine rules and the American government would have to enact law for allowing Pakistani mangoes into their market. It is time-consuming process and might take up to 18 months. Officials from both sides are currently exchanging drafts and would soon come up with agreed procedures for quarantine.

Mango enjoys second position after citrus in Pakistan. It is grown in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. It has a prominent position among the commercial fruits of Pakistan. The Pakistani mangoes are 2 to 10 inches long and may be kidney shaped, ovate or round. Pakistani mangoes are known for its peculiar taste and quality, attractive colors, savoring smell, and high nutritive value abroad. Different mango varieties are grown in different areas of the country. The mango varieties grown in Punjab include Langra, Dusehri, Samar Behisht, Chaunsa, Anwar Ratol. The important varieties of Sindh include Sindhri, Bagan Pali, Suwarneka, Neelum and Gulab Khas. The most popular cultivation areas of Pakistan for mangoes are Multan, Shujabad and Mir Pur Khas.

UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Kingdom, France, Malayasia, Singapore, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Dubai and Kuwait are the existing main mango markets

for Pakistan. The new markets for Pakistani mangoes include China, Iran, South Africa, Australia, Japan, Russia, and East Europe. Pakistan exported fruit worth $78.71 millions in 2000- 2001. It is a matter of concern that fresh and processed fruits and vegetables export make up less than one percent of Pakistan's total export.

The PHDEB has already developed a five-year strategy to enhance export of fruits, vegetables and flowers from present $142m to $500m by the year 2011-12. During 2005-06, Pakistan's total horticulture exports stood at $142 million -fruits at $117 million and vegetables at $25million. The PHDEB has recently signed protocols with China and Iran, which has opened access to new markets for Pakistan. PHDEB is currently working on two-pronged marketing strategy: entering new markets on one side and exploring the markets irrespective of strict standards, such as China, Iran and South Africa.

Pakistan is also focusing on implementing good agriculture practices at the farm level, develop HACCP-certified industry, organic certified farms and world class infrastructure by establishing cold storages, reefers, CFCs and Agro-zones to take a slice of these high price markets. A USAID-funded workshop recently held in Lahore, explored mango export potential highlighting the importance of EurepGap** certification for Pakistani fruit growers and exporters. **EurepGap started in 1997 as an initiative of retailers belonging to the Euro-Retailer Produce working group (Eurep). It is a private sector body that sets voluntary standards for the certification of agricultural products around the globe. The workshop was one of several initiatives the U.S. had taken, through USAID, focused towards making Pakistani industries competitive in the international market.

The PHDEB plans to establish two irradiation plants in Lahore and Karachi. It has underpinned the formation of a Cooperative Society for mango to promote Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) enabling the growers to produce quality fruit in line with the global demands in Pakistan. The board has discussed issues pertaining to the functioning of the Cooperative Society and to formulate systematic modalities to develop mango industry in the country. The members of the Cooperative Society would be guided to refine their agricultural practices for attainment of EUROGAP and other certifications.

There is however a need to create possible linkages for mango export to the international markets, including the U.S. There is also an urgent need to identify shortcomings in the fruit industry and to develop an action plan to strengthen the Pakistani fruit crop industry in the domestic and international markets. The government needs to evolve a system or reliable mechanism for proper management of fruit trees in order to increase per hectare production.

Pakistan's entry into the new markets like US and Japan is likely to open the doors to make its presence in other markets like Japan. Pakistani mangoes have all the potential to capture the high-value markets including the US. What is significantly needed for Islamabad is to complete the homework in 18 months. Since the USDA agreed to allow import of mangoes from Pakistan, the Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Board (PHDEB) has devised a comprehensive plan to produce quality mango to meet international standards.

Ministry of Commerce has framed a new set of rules about packaging and weight variations to regulate mango export, as underweight exports by some unscrupulous exporters brought a bad name to Pakistan.. The mango export formally started from May this year under a new set of rules. According to a Ministry of Commerce's statutory revenue order (SRO), mangoes would now be exported in packages of standard weight of two, three, four, five and seven kilograms, with five per cent weight variation on either side. The Customs authorities would ensure weight standardisation, which had become a huge hindrance in export. The ministry has also decided to formally fix date for export every year because some exporters start exporting the fruit pre-maturely in order to gain early advantage. It had been fixed at May 20 for the current year. Pre-mature export compromise on quality and taste, harming export market very badly.

Mango export to Europe costs some Rs72 per kg in freight charges alone. An underweight package by half kilogram could save the exporter Rs36 on freight head. This has encouraged some seasonal exporters to play with weight and bring bad name to the industry. In order to avoid this problem, the commerce ministry has issued weight standards, which would bring fairness to the trade.

Mango has been bringing $20 million in foreign exchange to the country and has potential to multiply the earnings. According to the official sources, the export target is around 115,000 tons, which is an improvement of 10,000 tons over the last year. The crop size has increased from one to 1.1 million tons in 2005 to 1.5 million tons this year. Though crop suffered some setback in Sindh due to weather vagaries, but overall production may cross 1.5 million tons level. The officials claim that new rules will increase the trade.