Fruit exports: New technology to eliminate contamination risks

Company seeks govt’s support to bring Electronic Beam Technology next year.

Kashif Hussain June 29, 2014

KARACHI: Keeping in view an increasing focus on trade in healthy and quality food to avoid restrictions and bans, a fruit exporting company has floated an idea, saying it could introduce the latest Electron Beam Pasteurisation Technology in Pakistan that will stave off the threat of rejection of fruit and food consignments.

In an interview to The Express Tribune, Zulfiqar Momin, a Pakistan-origin US investor based in Houston, said more than 40 countries had adopted the Electron Beam Technology to eliminate germs, pests and insects from food, fruits, vegetables, poultry meat, beef, mutton and packed food. It also prevents the growth of tiny branches in vegetables, like potato and onion.

He said the technology would also eliminate the need for chemical spray on food products that could have harmful effects on human health.

Momin has been associated with the shipping and logistics industry for a long time. He started commercial export of mango from Pakistan to the United States for the first time this year.

His company Farm House Export Limited has been exporting cherry, planted in Gilgit-Baltistan, to Dubai for the last two years. He also plans to export high-value fruits like strawberry, blue and black berries, grapes and pomegranates.

He is also working on a plan to cultivate strawberry and blue and black berries in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Momin sought Pakistan government’s support for introducing the Electron Beam Technology in the country and offered to bring foreign investors with him. “If the government provides assistance, we will bring the technology next year.”

He described the hot water technology for fruit cleaning before export, which is currently being used in Pakistan, as obsolete and was being rapidly replaced by the Electron Beam Technology the world over. “The new technology is easy to use, costs much less and is also environment-friendly.”

A $3 million Electronic Beam Technology plant has the capacity to scan and treat a 15-ton packed consignment in an hour. According to initial estimates, the treatment costs Rs7 to Rs8 per kg. The ideal place to install such a plant is the airport premises.

Under the process, beta rays pass through paper, cardboard and even plastic to reach packed food products and kill and eliminate germs, pests and insects. This way, goods consignment can be scanned at the last stage of clearance at the customs with no need to open the packaging.

“With the help of this technology, Pakistan can tackle any problems pertaining to fruit flies in food export consignments, particularly fruits and vegetables,” Momin said.

A couple of months ago, the European Union banned import of some types of Indian mangoes because of presence of fruit flies in the cargo.

Fruit packaging

For packaging fruits, particularly cherry, for overseas sales, Momin’s company has prepared a special heat-proof bag with the help of material imported from the US. Costing Rs1,500 per bag, it improves the shelf life of cherry and other fruits.

In the same way, for export of mangoes and other fruits through air route, a blanket is being prepared with the help of imported special material. It will be wrapped around fruit packs to prevent outside temperature from harming the quality and freshness of the fruit. 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2014.

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