The support from the government to horticulture sector could lead to opening of new global markets for Pakistan in this important sector of economy.

The experts from economy and Agri-sector said this while sharing their views with the participants during online public-private dialogue ‘Value addition and exports in horticulture sector’ organized by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), in coordination with Pakistan Business Council (PBC) here on Thursday.

General Manager, Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company, Ministry of Commerce, Mr Sarfraz Iqbal, informed the participants that Covid-19 has negatively impacted supply chains in horticulture sector. However, he said, there is high demand abroad for health and nutrition foods which Pakistan needs to capture.

Mr Iqbal added further that while European Union has allowed import in their region through electronic documentation, Pakistan is trying to negotiate with other countries if our export can go there in a similar manner.

Chairperson, Pakistan Business Council (PBC), Syed Yawar Ali, while covering various aspects of the horticulture sector, opined that that uplift in horticulture requires immediate support from the government as we need to understand the developments taking place in genetics, technology, modern farm and food processing practices.

“We need to bring large global horticulture companies to Pakistan to help our farmers and industry in upgradation,” Mr Ali and urged the government to embark on a 10-years longer term strategy for improving skills and incentives in this sector.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed, Joint Executive Director, SDPI, while moderating the discussion underpinned the need for various government bodies to get involved in trade facilitation to look in to international evidence around innovations and information systems as well as reduction in information, marketing and distribution costs in the horticulture sector globally.

He said that “the Strategic Trade Policy Framework (STPF) at Ministry of Commerce should have a focus on horticulture sector given the job creation potential of this sector.”  Th government should invite local think tanks and experts to assess how various critical issues curtailing productivity may be addressed including rising input costs faced by the farmers, indirect taxes on inputs and farm operations, subsidies and support price benefits not reaching the smaller enterprises, he concluded.  

Director General, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), Mr Abdul Karim Memon, was of view that the future of the sector lies in packaged food. Therefore, packaging industry should come forward and provide recommendations how it can be facilitated by the government.

Mr Saud Bangash, Resident Director, PBC, was of view that more clarity is required on quarantine agreement and related arrangements between China and Pakistan to boost Pakistan’s horticulture exports to China.

Dr Iqrar Khan, Former Vice Chancellor, Agriculture University Faisalabad opined that we need to deregulate horticulture market to create more competition and encourage quality production. Mr Aman Ullah Hussaini, noted agriculture expert, was of view that Pakistani dates are of low quality and only imported by India.

Ehsan Malik, CEO PBC, while summarizing PBC’s research on this subject said that the demand for horticulture is growing globally. Hence, there is significant unmet export potential in this sector. He added further that Pakistan’s current exports of horticulture sector are of low value and only limited to a few markets in the world. Hence, he suggested, steps are required to improve yield, make availability of improved quality seed possible and scale up training to farmers.

Dr Amena Hasan, CEO, Business for Social Progress, on the occasion, suggested that we should also focus on organic horticulture. He said that there is a large market for organic products globally and Pakistan has organic exporters who can be encouraged.

Abrar Hasan, CEO of National Foods lamented that farmers and food processing companies continue to face regulatory burdens which increases cost of doing business. Aamer Hayat Bhandara, of Hayat Farms, said that due to higher costs, farmers are forced to use cheaper fertilizer and pesticides that reduce export quality.

Khalil Sattar, CEO of K&N Foods also covered various aspects of the sector and said that we need to invite large multinationals from abroad to highlight the potential of Pakistan in horticulture sector.