Despite the warning signs that should have been clear to Pakistan’s fruit exporters for some time now, they seemed to have paid little heed to them. They were unable to ensure that quality checks were in place at the farm level, resulting in three consignments already being intercepted on their way to European Union (EU) markets. It will need just two more similar interceptions for Pakistan to face a blanket ban on its mango exports, a fate similar to that of India, which found some of its fresh food exports slapped with a blanket ban last year.
As Pakistan already faces stiff competition from other countries, there is an urgent need to review the quality checks in place for our fresh food exports. The government and the relevant departments responsible for handling fruit exports have managed to make hot water treatment essential for all exports to the EU. As a result, only a few consignments were intercepted in 2014 after an unusually high number of 236 in 2013. However, this year Pakistan is in serious danger of losing one of its biggest export markets for mango. To be fair, all blame cannot be placed on the government as climatic hazards have disrupted production in Punjab. There has been a failure in placing quality checks at the basic farm level, with exporters relying more on checks placed at later stages. While the country’s fruit and vegetable associations, and the government can take some credit for the few quality checks that are in place, farmers, unaware of modern techniques and facing multiple threats ranging from unfavourable weather to floods, have been unable to fulfill their responsibility in this regard. Farmers need to be trained and told — again and again — about the repercussions of their negligence to ensure quality checks. While the government has a role to play here, the exporters should take some responsibility too and spend more money on ensuring quality at the farm level since their profit margins on exporting to the EU are quite high. All stakeholders need to play their due role to avoid a possible humiliation.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2015.
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