‘Allocate Rs100m for R&D in the fruit and vegetable sector’


In order to meet domestic demand and boost exports, businessmen have asked the government to allocate 100 million rupees for research and development (R&D) of new varieties of fruits and vegetables. Waheed Ahmed, head of the Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association (PFVA), stressed the importance of developing new varieties through thorough R&D. “There is an urgent need to develop new varieties to enhance exports through thorough R&D by allocating Rs 100 million for this purpose,” Ahmed pointed out.

The Kinnow industry, valued at 130 billion rupees, saw a decline in exports from $220 million to $110 million, a significant decline of 50%. The Kinnow variety in Pakistan is 60 years old, while worldwide practice is to change variety after 25 years. Ahmed explained that the existing variety is susceptible to various diseases resulting in reduced shelf life and inability to withstand longer transit times of 15 to 45 days. Kinnow currently contributes 30% of total fruit and vegetable exports with 250 factories across the country.

With the development of new varieties, Kinnow’s export potential can be increased to $350 million over the next four years. This, in turn, would enhance the overall horticultural export of ready-to-eat and processed fresh fruits and vegetables. Sindh Abadhgar Board (SAB), Senior Vice Chairman Mahmood Nawaz Shah stressed the need to encourage the horticulture industry by investing in export-related sectors. He offered to provide interest-free financing, feasibility studies and public-private partnerships to attract investors. To reduce reliance on imported mushrooms, the PFVA leader has advocated for the removal of sales tax on local sales of fresh, frozen or otherwise preserved mushrooms. This measure would discourage imports and save foreign exchange.

Concave Agri Services, President, Muhammad Ali Iqbal, highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships in developing quality indigenous seeds for horticulture. He called for controlled-atmosphere facilities to meet long-term storage requirements for perishable fruits such as cherries, peaches, plums and apricots. Businessmen also highlighted the need to review the high costs of phytosanitary certificates, which have increased by more than 800%. They recommended subsidies for the cost of certifications, testing, and blockchain technology for the first three years, then gradually reduced to 50% for the following three years.

The SAB Senior Vice President highlighted the importance of an uninterrupted energy supply for the sector, as well as investments in small and medium enterprises that use existing raw materials. Another concern raised by Ahmed was the high cost of aseptic packaging bags, which are not made locally. Dependence on imports drives up the costs of processing units. Additionally, he highlighted the financial benefits to growers in the case of bumper crops, which can be stored for up to two years using aseptic bags. In order to support the local juice and fruit industries, import duty exemptions have been requested for spare parts used in the products.

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