The citrus fruit grown in Pakistan is considered to be the most important for better economic earning and its dietetic value. Citrus has generally been a source of foreign exchange earnings and its domestic need is also growing in the country. There are a lot of stresses which is coming on citrus industry in Pakistan. Due to these stresses especially lack of modern techniques, only 10 per cent citrus is exported to other countries.
Citrus stands as the second most important fruit worldwide after grapes in terms of area and production. Pakistan is one of the top ten citrus producing countries of the world. It is also the largest producer of Citrus Reticula variety (Kinnow). This unique variety of citrus is indigenous to this part of the world. Citrus fruit has been reported to prevent liver, lungs and skin cancer and heart diseases. It is the best source of vitamin C, sugar, amino acids and other nutrients. However, its present status is threatened by a number of problems including low production due to pests and diseases. In addition, these pests and diseases also affect quality of the fruit. This causes heavy economic losses to the growers. Citrus stands on top among the 30 fruits grown throughout the country with Punjab dominating in production. Citrus is one of the major exporting fruits of Pakistan.
A crisis-like situation prevails relating to kinnow export during the current year, say majority of citrus fruit exporters. They blame the official apathy as a major source of concern for them to resolve pending issues. This year witnessed a generally good crop: production of kinnows went up to 2.4 million tons and the export target was fixed at 300,000 tons; but the loss of Irans lucrative market and delays in consignments due to stringent commodity checks by customs authorities were major problems of low kinnow exports. Furthermore, Sri Lanka imposed a special commodity levy on imports of fruit which annoyed local exporters at a time when the citrus export season was underway. Moreover, due to escalation in the prices of important inputs to kinnow farming, farmers could not apply balanced doses of fertilizers, which aggravated quality problems. This year also witnessed a prolonged monsoon which caused fungal diseases which created blemishes on the fruit, thereby ruining their quality. Furthermore, it was observed that citrus growers didnt apply pesticides against insects which also caused blemishes and rendered the commodity un-acceptable in high end markets.
The winter season also remained dry and witnessed unprecedented frost, which diminished the postharvest life of the fruit-rendering it soft and puffy. In Pakistan, average productivity is 9.5 tons per hectare which is very low as compared with developed countries like United States, Japan and Australia. In developed countries average yield is approximately 40 tons per hectare. There are a number of obstacles in obtaining higher yield of citrus. It is generally thought that the primary factor responsible for decrease in citrus production and quality is the attack of different sucking and chewing insect pests which reduce its yield.
There are number of chewing pest which attack on citrus plants and cause severe damage to plants and fruit. Some of these insects are as follow. Citrus leaf miner, Light brown apple moth, Lemon butterfly, Weevils and Thrips. In citrus industry insects pest play a major role to make decrease the production of citrus. Quality deteriorated also by sucking insect pests. Because if sucking insects pest come on vigour plant and they get success in to make damage and to transmit disease in plant. The plant become non vigour and it will produce a fruit of not so much good quality.
Kinnows have been introduced in more than 20 countries of the world; however, its full potential from international markets has not yet been tapped. For this, the government needs to implement reforms in the sector as per demands of sensitive markets such as Europe, Eastern Europe and Russia. These countries usually stress the implementation of Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) and ensuring a maximum pesticide residual level, without which exports to these regions cannot be sustained. Furthermore, it is important to comply with phytosanitary requirements outlined by importing countries for fruits. The country needs to pay head to a very important sector which has the potential of fetching precious foreign exchange. Without the introduction of modern agricultural practices in safeguarding and nurturing good quality produce, the viable markets for kinnows may be lost for Pakistani growers.
The writers are associated with the Institute of Horticultural Sciences, University of Agricultural Faisalabad, Pakistan.