The government is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea as it can neither afford a ban on mango exports to the European Union (EU) nor does it wants to see a sharp decline in shipments.
After receiving stern warnings on quality issues, the government is cautiously clearing consignments for the EU, making exporters angry who have never faced such strict quality controls in the country’s history.
But the government is taking a strong position, saying it will not compromise on quality come what may. It says the country can afford a slump in exports but it cannot even think of a blanket ban on all fruit and vegetable exports.
The extra cautious approach is the result of a recent EU ban on the import of five types of fruits and vegetables from India over presence of pests and fruit flies in the consignments.
“We know mango exporters are perturbed by the number of export consignments rejected, but they also understand that we cannot take any risk of sending substandard fruit to the EU,” Department of Plant Protection (DPP) DG Dr Mubarak Ahmed told The Express Tribune.
DPP is one of the 14 organisations that works under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research and provides complete quarantine facilities to the fruit and vegetable growers.
Learning from the EU’s ban on Indian products, Pakistani government with the help of growers and exporters have carved out a stringent standard procedure in the last three months that is now creating problems for the mango exporters.
After surveying about 200 farms in Sindh and Punjab, the DPP has granted clearance certificates to just 11 farms in Sindh and 14 in Punjab. The exporters can only buy mangoes from these farms if they wish to export to the EU, as these orchards are free from fruit flies and other fruit diseases.
But small mango exporters say their consignments are being rejected even if they buy the fruit from certified farms.
“DPP officials at airports are rejecting many consignments. They are just extra cautious,” said Ahmad Jawad, Director of Harvest Trading, an Islamabad-based consultancy firm for fresh fruit exporters.
Jawad, who is also a fresh fruit exporter, said he understands the DPP’s responsibility but he is also perturbed, as the country will face a huge decline in mango exports this year.
On the other hand, the DPP DG has different views. “We are strictly following the standard procedures that we have recently announced for the industry,” Dr Mubarak Ahmed said. “We are not discriminating against anyone. We have rejected consignments of small as well as top exporters who did not comply with our standards.”
Even after purchasing mangoes from the certified farms, some exporters are mixing B or C quality mangoes with A quality. “Exporters have never experienced such strict measures on the part of the government. This is why they are a little upset but hopefully they will learn from this year’s experiences,” Ahmed added.
What is appreciable is that no mango exporter has so far complained of dishonesty or corruption in the application of standard procedures to exports to the EU market.
“We know the government is extremely harsh with the exporters, but we also know they are doing all this for the country and for this industry,” a top mango exporter told The Express Tribune. “This year, we will see a big dip in mango exports but we are sure exports will grow strongly next year after learning from this year’s experiences.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2014.