KARACHI: Despite being cleared for export to the United States (US) mainly because of diplomatic efforts, Pakistani mango producers have failed to tap one of the world’s biggest markets even after four years, because of the absence of an irradiation facility in the country.
Chairman, All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA), Waheed Ahmed, said that Pakistani mango was unable to reach the US market because of a mandatory requirement for treatment of mangoes through an approved irradiation center– a modern food preservation technology that can extend the shelf-life of food.
“Unfortunately, despite the successful introduction of our fruit in the US market four years ago, we could not commercially start the business, thus providing room to other mango exporting countries especially India,” said Ahmed.
India has set up an irradiation center at Maharashtra, and a similar facility at Karachi could be very helpful for Pakistani exports, he said.
Fruit exporters fear that once the lucrative market is fully tapped by Indian exporters, Pakistanis will face difficulty in finding ground in the US, which has highly quality conscious consumers.
On the other hand India, with the help of the modern irradiation facility, has exported a record 500 metric tonnes (MT) of mangoes to the US this year. India – the world’s largest grower of mangoes, started exports to the US in 2007 after attaining an irradiation facility to get rid of fruit flies and other diseases.
With the absence of an irradiation facility in Pakistan, the governments of Pakistan and US discussed various alternate options to start commercial exports to US, but were unsuccessful.
In 2010, two viable options were discussed including the establishment of a pre-clearance program from National Plant Protection Organization/MINFA, along with an Operational Work Plan for commodities shipped through pre-clearance to meet Phytosanitary entry requirements. The consignments would have been treated in US for mitigation of mango pest risks pending approval of pre-clearance program. This would have been quicker.
It was also agreed in principle that initially, mango producers certified by Global Gap with experience in produce export markets will be considered under this program. None of the options were implemented.
Treating Pakistani mangoes in the US was not feasible because of high transportation costs, as the fruit needed to be sent to Chicago for treatment before sending them to various other cities.
Though Pakistan International Airline (PIA) has been requested several times in various meetings held during the last couple of years, the national carrier has failed to arrange direct flights from Pakistan to Chicago.
Rise in exports
According to Ahmed, the good news is that the mango exports this year has reached a historic mark of 163,000MT, worth $55.74 million so far as compared to the total export of 118,000MT worth $38 million recorded last year.
With 30 days of exports remaining, the mark this year is expected to reach at around 190,000MT, crossing the target of 175,000MT set for this season. However, any further rise in exports is directly linked with the quality of the fruit and weather conditions.
Interestingly, the increase in the demand for mango in Muslim countries during the holy month of Ramadan had remarkably supported this business. Almost 80% of the fruit was exported to the Muslim countries.
Pakistani mangoes have successfully been introduced in Japan and Australia.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2013.