ISLAMABAD: The composition and the terms of reference of a proposed citrus export development board were discussed in detail at a meeting chaired by Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan on Tuesday.
The meeting deliberated as to whether the board will be an advisory body or to have financial powers. Participants of the meeting from provinces, growers and exporters believed that the board should have powers to take decisions on measures to enhance citrus productivity, quality and exports.
However, according to official sources, no final decision was emerged on the membership of the board. The next meeting of the committee is expected to formulate some recommendations on the board, which will then be submitted to the prime minister for approval.
Tuesday’s meeting decided that the National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) will initiate training sessions for citrus farmers on modern agricultural lines for better quality and yield.
It was further decided that the Citrus Research Institute will be upgraded as the ‘Centre of Excellence’ for citrus promotion in Punjab.
The Punjab government asked the federal government to fund the state-of-the-art establishment of screen houses for production of nursery plant, linkages of citrus research centre with international organisations and training of trainers on citrus management from international institutes.
The provincial government also sought relief on the import of machinery and plants from field to processing and value addition.
Mr Bosan constituted a committee headed by deputy food security commissioner for the inspection of citrus orchards. Three top growers would be awarded cash prizes for meeting international standards.
Director-General of Agriculture Extension Punjab Dr Anjum Ali made a presentation to the committee on the proposed project on citrus productivity and quality improvement in Sargodha and Mandi Bahauddin.
Sargodha, Bhalwal, Kot Moman, Shahpur, Sahiwal and Sillanwali grow citrus on 223,988 acres out of the total cultivated area of 1276,896 acres, whereas Mandi Bahauddin, Malikwal and Phalia grow citrus on 28,781 acres against the total cultivated area of 529,656 acres.
Dr Ali informed the committee that during 2014-15, citrus production was recorded at 2.3 million tonnes against 2m tonnes in 2013-14, while 370,000 tonnes — about 16 per cent of the total production — was exported of the last citrus crop.
Mr Bosan stressed that the issues pertaining to citrus nursery, best agriculture practices, plant nutrition, pruning, intercropping, mechanisation, drainage, pest control and poor post-harvest handling need to be addressed at the earliest.
The Punjab agricultural official informed the committee that the incidence of citrus canker in Sargodha has declined from 45pc to 20pc due to timely measures taken by the government. Dr Ali listed factors that were affecting productivity and fruit quality.
Representative of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa informed the meeting that the total area under citrus cultivation in the province was 9,880 acres while production was 31,600 tonnes with 3.2 tonnes per acre yield.