Strawberries’ production in the country has jumped by more than 300 per cent in the last five years, but the country still lacks the ability to export the fruit due to lack of agricultural management, said former chairman of All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetables Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association Waheed Ahmed.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Ahmed said that the government is aware of the progress agriculturists are making in the country, but they continue to focus on traditional products and markets, and ignore all possible expansions into new ventures, such as strawberries.
“Though strawberries are doing so well all over the world, we do not have a feasibility report on our potential yet. Not only strawberries, there are many other local fruits and vegetables that can be number one in the world and we do not even have basic rules such as the minimum export price for these products,” he said.
An official working with the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan also informed that they have many businessmen approaching them with “some really good investment ideas and new market proposals but they are discouraged either due to lack of cooperation or lengthy government rules”.
She said that businessmen in Pakistan “are especially keen to expand the agricultural market of Pakistan to western countries”, further adding that sometimes it is not possible to trade with the West due to rigid health and safety laws.
Giving information on strawberries cultivation, Harvest Tradings CEO Ahmad Jawad said that the per acre income from strawberry crop is estimated to Rs100,000 per season.
Until five years ago, strawberries were mostly imported from western countries and were beyond the purchasing power of common citizens as they used to be priced at Rs400 a box. Now they have come down to Rs100-120 per kg in big cities, while their wholesale rates range between Rs80-90, even cheaper than regular Pakistani fruits, he added. Jawad further informed that several years ago, strawberry cultivation was limited only in cool climate areas of Swat, Ziarat, Mardan and Peshawar in the northwest province of Pakistan. But with the arrival of Taliban and the start of the war against terrorism in the region, it became impossible for strawberry growers to plant strawberry in the northwest, he said.
To earn their livelihood, he informed, strawberry growers of these areas started to give advisory to the farmers in Punjab and Sindh provinces, the most fertilised areas in the country with the concept of tunnel farming.
Jawad further said that there are a number of reasons for restricted production, like the climate, size and taste. “By overcoming problems related to quality, quantity and perishability of the fruit, we can also export it to Europe, the United States and Middle Eastern countries,” he said.
Varieties of strawberry are being grown in Pakistan, including Chandelier, Corona and Stuff, he informed. Furthermore, previously the fruit bearing season was limited to three weeks only but with the advisory and innovations from the government agriculture department the fruit bearing season has been expanded to four months from February to the first week of May, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2011.
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