It is a paradoxical situation indeed. While USAID mango programme currently in its third year is concentrating on enhancing linkages to tap international markets for Pakistan’s mango sector, a New York Congressman Tom Reed has questioned the decision of Obama administration to spend 30 million dollars on mango farmers of Pakistan to help them export the king of fruits to United States.
“This is ridiculous,” he said in a statement asserting that 30 million dollars spent to help Pakistani mango farmers is the latest example of “egregious and wasteful government spending” by Obama administration, according to a report published in Hindustan Times recently.
The newspaper quoted him saying: “while domestic fruit farmers struggle to get by, we aid Pakistani farmers,” adding that 30 million dollars is part of 90 million dollars programme funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). “Our national debt stands at more than $ 15,300,000,000,000, yet we borrow money that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back in order to boost Pakistani mangoes,” he said.
Pakistan is one of the largest mango producers in the world with its average annual production of the fruit at 1.7-1.8 million tons. The mango production this year, however, is estimated at 1.2 million tonnes, which is low as compared to last year’s production.
High prices of inputs including fertiliser, oil, and pesticide and water shortage have created immense problems for growers and it is likely that the situation could further reduce the produce. There is a long list of well known problems with mango exports. No one, however, seems interested in dealing with them. According to Ahmad Jawad, CEO Harvest Trading, “we have a unique but unsophisticated network of 6-7 intermediaries running between growers and end-users because of the presence of many unnecessary layers in the export loop.
“It is unfortunate that being the world’s largest producer and exporter of mangoes, India beats Pakistan, undoubtedly not in quality of the product, but in terms of a stronger functioning export mechanism, rigorous international marketing and a strategic mango diplomacy crusaded by their envoys in all parts of the world, in which we are lacking,” he told Business Recorder.
Jawad said this year again, based on different calculations, our mangoes may not get a good response from Jeddah market due to Yemen and Indian mango strong hold, and again our Sindhri variety will play like a test match in this market. Chaunsa may get good returns in the end of July in Jeddah market which is one of the biggest markets in Middle East.
The US assistance to Pakistan’s mango industry began in 2009 with a series of programmes meant to boost productivity and sales. With US support, 13 mango farms established modern mango processing facilities to improve processing and storage of the fruit, trained more than 4,500 farmers, extension workers, and exporters in harvesting and handling techniques, and helped mango growers arrange shipments to new export markets in Europe and the Middle East.
USAID vows to improving Pakistan’s mango harvesting and handling procedures and making connections with traders in world-wide export markets, and the US government hopes to help Pakistan increase its profitable mango exports and raise agricultural revenues.
Jawad said although “we were expecting to export good volumes to US market, being one of the biggest market in the world, with competitive pricing factor, but the scenario seems different this year again as irradiation facility plant in Iowa-US who is authorised to irradiate Pakistani mangoes, would increase irradiation costs as it will charge importers on per hour basis rather than by weight to irradiate the mango fruit.”
They claimed that last year US Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors took four hours to process each consignment and examine the fruit which was not a good transaction. Similarly the new hourly pricing model could make imports prohibitively expensive and mango buyers in US will be again reluctant, if the price increases to an exorbitant level then we will not be able to export this year again, he said.
For Indian mangoes, this process happens in India itself, at a facility in Nasik, where a US inspector – but funded by Indian government – check every shipment for compliance to US standards, before it is shipped. Pakistan was unable to wangle the same deal. Jawad urged Washington to review this requirement and allow pre-shipment irradiation in Pakistan.
USAID in a press release, however, said that mango farmers across Pakistan continued their partnership with USAID to maximise yields, improve product quality, introduce better packaging, and create market linkages. All these advancements are helping Pakistani mango growers tap into new export markets with each passing session. As the mango season for 2012 begins, this partnership continues to bear fruit.
Ghulam Sarwar Abro of Mustafa Agricultural Farms in Kotri (Sindh) has been a partner with USAID’s mango programme. “We are confident that with USAID’s support, all of the ground work has been done. We have the required standards, infrastructure, and linkages to tap the international markets on competitive footing.”
It further said that seven mango farms from Sindh were already scheduled to send commercial shipments to high-end markets across the globe in June this year, adding that more farms would participate in commercial shipments as soon as harvesting began in Punjab.
USAID has signed Infrastructure Upgrade Agreements (IUAs) with 15 mango farmers across Pakistan on a cost-sharing basis to build pack houses. USAID has also provided assurance to 15 farmers in achieving Global G.A.P certification under a similar cost-share agreement and has planned to increase this number by the end of this season by adding another 12 certified farms. The USAID mango programme was currently in its third year and this year the programme was specifically concentrating on enhancing market linkages for Pakistan’s mango sector, it said.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2012
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