BOOSTING HORTICULTURE AND LIVESTOCK EXPORT
SAVING THE PRODUCE FROM GOING STALE CAN ENHANCE LOCAL AVAILABILITY AND ALSO EARN EXTRA FOREIGN EXCHANGE
SHABBIR H. KAZMI
Dec 24 - 30, 2012
Historically policy planners have suffered from a phobia that boosting export of horticulture and livestock could lead to an acute shortage of these products in Pakistan. They normally look at the prevailing demand and supply equation but completely ignore the real potential. Many experts say that apprehensions that export of these products could lead to shortage of these products are baseless because more than 40% of the produce goes stale before reaching the market. If concerted efforts are made to save the produce from going stale not only country will be able to earn more foreign exchange but income of the growers will improve, also help in poverty alleviation.
Pakistan often raked among the top ten largest producers of about a dozen items but its share in the global markets remains minuscule, this is despite the fact that yields of various crops in the country have remained disappointingly low. Experts are of the consensus that production and productivity can be increased significantly by following right policies and enabling the farmers to take better care of standing crop.
While a lot many things can be done, in the first phase efforts have to be made to save the produce from going stale. This requires improving logistic and storage systems. It is on record that over the years Pakistan has been able to produce around 25 million tons wheat but putting all sorts of storage facilities together not more than 10 million tons can be warehoused stores. Yield of sugarcane is low because a significant quantity is cultivated in cotton growing belt. Pakistan is among the top five producers of milk but less than 5% of total quantity can be packed in tetra packs. Similarly, a huge quantity of fruits produced in northern areas could not be brought to big cities because of scarcity of refrigerated containers.
Therefore, Pakistan has to come up multipronged strategies which have to be crop specific. Since work on all the crops just can't be started simultaneously. Each district or produce has to pick up one or maximum two crops and work wholeheartedly to increase yield, contain wastage and improve logistic and storage facilities.
Since Punjab has the largest areas under cultivation and also adequate irrigation facilities it should focus on wheat, rice, mango and oilseeds. Sindh should focus on cotton, mango and sugarcane. Balochsitan should focus on province specific fruits. KP and GB should also focus on fruits. Since commercial banks are offering loans specifically for the construction of storage facilities. They should also start lending soft-term loans for developing integrated supply chains for highly perishable fruits. Overwhelming percentage of some of the fruits is destroyed because till today the country has highly depleted storage and transportation facilities.
The rule of thumb is that income from orchids at up to 10 times the income earned from the conventional crops. It is true that for the initial three years growers get a nominal income but once the plants start yielding fruits, the income is really fabulous. As the income of growers of wheat rice, cotton and sugarcane has become almost flat over the years, they are also making a deliberate attempt on developing orchids. However, at time they face real precarious situation if there is a virus or pest attack. Often standing crop in infected areas has to be destroyed to save the adjoining area. Some sort of control mechanism has to be introduced to discourage frequent switchover from one crop to another. This often leads to glut followed by shortage. In case of glut farmers often burn out standing crops.
Special focus on cultivation of sugarcane yield extraordinary benefits. It is on record that Pakistan has above 9 million tons sugar production capacity but average production hovers around 4 million tons. Since the government has failed in announcing sugar export policy, huge quantity of refined sugar is smuggled to the neighboring country. It is on record that during 2011-12 over 1.2 million tons surplus sugar was produced. However, delay in granting permission to export of sugar has already led to smuggling of nearly half a million tons sugar. The prices prevailing in Pakistan and other countries offer enormous incentive and porous borders is the added advantage.
Higher crushing of sugarcane is expected to yield higher molasses production. Experts say that nearly 150 products can be produced from molasses, but more than 90% of total molasses produced in the country is exported. This looks most disgusting because almost all the sugar mills have attached distilleries, which either operate on nominal capacity or remain closed for exceptionally long hours. Enhancing higher production of ethanol and its blending with motor gasoline can also help in not only containing motor gasoline import but more importantly achieving higher value addition.
Halal food market now runs into billions of dollars. Focusing on livestock will not only help in bringing price of milk and meat lower but enhancing production of leather and leather products. Pakistan has managed to improve milk collection system, but only marginally. It is necessary to mention that population of buffalos Karachi is approaching half a million, despite the fact that the city does not have any milk packing plant. Bulk of the milk is sold loose or used for producing curd and lassi. The animal population would have been higher had green fodder is available in sufficient quantities around Karachi.
Some of the experts are of the opinion that cultivation of corn in the adjoining areas can help in increasing availability of greed fodder as well production of corn oil and oilcakes. Animals fed on oilcakes yield higher milk. Average milk production per animal in Pakistan is only a fraction of quantity produced around the globe. While milk production per animal hovers around 1800 maunds in Pakistan, the global output is 6,500 maunds.