July 9 - 15, 20

Considering declining exports of mangoes, South Korea's grant of market access to Pakistani fruit is a positive development. This will not only deliver monetary benefits to the country but also help in changing perception related to quality and standards of mango varieties in other countries. The country could be able to export up to 15,000 tonnes of mangoes to Seoul in next few years, said media reports.

"With this land mark achievement, Pakistani mango exporters got the market access of a third highly valued and important country after the United States and Japan," co-chairman, Pakistan fruit and vegetable exporters, importers and merchant association (PFVA), Waheed Ahmed told APP.

"The development came after approval of the standards of mangoes by a panel of South Korean experts who recently visited the Hard Water Treatment Facility of Iftikhar Ahmed and Company and Pakistan Horti Fresh Processing and found the treatment facility as per the required standards," he said.

Pakistan exported 125,000 tonnes of mangoes last year and fetched $38 to $40 million. Mango comes second to citrus in exportable fruit group list of the country. Pakistan's share in the global mango market shared by India, Thailand, South Africa, Mexico, etc. can be increased substantially.

However, it is feared that this year would witness 20 per cent, or 25,000 tonnes, reduction in exports over last year because of many internal and external factors. The country has faced crisis on many fronts ranging from manmade ones such as energy shortages to natural i.e. floods. Experts forecast country's total production will come down to 1.2 million tonnes from 1.7 million tonnes last year.

Sindh was the topper in mango production in all provinces for several years after partition. But, lack of efforts on the part of government and continuous deterioration of the horticulture sector in the province robbed it of this status. Last two-year floods worsened it even more, eventually translating into estimated 30 per cent undersized production this year. Now, Sindhri is perhaps the only specie from the province that carries a considerable share in exports. Mango varieties are grown both lower and upper Sindh including Khairpur, Naushahro Feroz, Mirpurkhas, Umerkot, Tando Allahyar, Matiari, Hyderabad, Kisano Mori, Tandojam, Sanghar, etc.

Punjab is the major producer with 54,000 hectares area under mango plantation. Sindh is the second biggest producer with 46,000 hectares. Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cultivate mangoes on 11,000 and 2,000 hectares. Sindhri and Chaunsa are popular among a wide assortment.

On the external front, U.S. pressures on Pakistan to swear off bilateral trade with Iran brought Pakistani exports including fruit consignments to its neighbouring country nearly to a halt. Beside, it has become commercially unviable for traders to trade with the foreign partners in absence of indirect financial links. Payment transactions take long root of third country to reach to the traders of Pakistan and Iran.

Now, media reports said Pakistan and Iran agreed to restart Quetta-Taftan railway services. During a meeting of railway officials of economic cooperation organisation (ECO), Turkey, Pakistan, and Iran vowed to revamp railway infrastructure to reduce timing of cargo transportation among the countries. That strong financial link is also important should be paid heed to. It remains to be seen if trade relation of Iran with two major allies of the U.S. in the region is put on the smooth track.

Over the last three years, the U.S., Japan, Jordan, Mauritius, and South Korea have accepted Pakistan's mango quality. It is said approval of Australia is also being sought. Australia has a strict approval procedure that has made it rather annoying for the world's top producer of mangoes, India, to bring its Chausa and Langda varieties up to the required standards, though Australia had granted market access to Indian mangoes back in 2008. Later on, issues pertaining to unsatisfactory irradiation stopped the shipments. Indian mango export fell 30 per cent to 59,220 tonnes in 2010/11 from 83,703 tonnes in 2008/09. Now, its government has stepped up to regain market access to give a boost to its declining exports by correcting its treatment processes and improving its irradiation facility.

Japan is one of the world's leading importers of mangoes. Though it has certified mango treatment facility in Pakistan, yet it has become difficult for the exporters to meet the demand because of lack of vapour heat treatment (VHT) facilities in the country. It is worthwhile to note that Russia and USA also green signalled Pakistani mangoes, but the same issue came in the way of exports. So far, the government has not been able to set up more such plants to enhance treatment capacity up to the requirements of exporting destinations that can add to foreign reserves. It can create joint ventures with foreign investors to build capacity.

Exports will shoot not only when production scales up but also when post-harvest quality is improved. Farmers should be encouraged to increase production. It is said they are hesitant to grow mangoes because of their relatively low profitability compared with other cash crops. The short shelf-life also diverts growers to easily manageable crops. Value addition depends on adequate orchards-to-market road transportation, cold storages, and other post-harvest considerations. Lack of marketing and dull packaging could also not attract due attention of foreign buyers.

Often, locals are heard of complaining good quality products are exported while they are left to nibble at untreated and substandard mangoes, howsoever good and aromatic in tastes. It may be meaningful to note that people in other mango exporting countries e.g. India also bemoan leftover stocks of the delicacies as a result of massive exports of good ones to foreign countries. Consumers have some rights to feast on local produce treated with the irradiation that is a process of getting rid of bacteria and all.