Pakistan could multiply the existing export of fruits/vegetables from US $525 million to US $7 billion in 10 years time with continuous research and development which are badly lacking at the moment. The issue was thoroughly discussed between Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) and All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants (PFVA) at a meeting held here at PCSIR head office on Friday.
The participants included: Director General, Dr S Naimat Ali Rizvi, Dr Omer and Dr Khalid Jamil, and Ms Beena Naqvi, Senior Scientific Officer from PCSIR while PFVA was represented by Waheed Ahmed and Mohammad Ilyas Khan, Chairman and Secretary General respectively of PFVA.
It has been since long burning desire of the Chairman, PFVA to initiate something concrete for commencement of Research and Development (R&D) facilities in all provinces of Pakistan as he firmly believes that for continuous product development, it's imperative to have such facilities to enhance exports, compete in the international markets and to remain in the agribusiness. His vision is crystal clear on R&D and this meeting was a first small step towards a bigger cause in future.
He plans to have several such meetings with other organisations including Vice-Chancellor of University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. The objective behind such meetings is to seek technical assistance, advice and support of such institutions and organisations in setting up R&D facilities for the PFVA. Another aim of such meetings is to get familiar with their Research and Development work and assess degree of contribution these organisations could make by using their state of the art sophisticated modern labs.
The agenda of this meeting was to: Share concern of the PFVA about the issues/problems related to export of fruits and vegetables, share vision of the PFVA about R&D in this segment of agribusiness, seek technical assistance, advice and support of PCSIR in establishment of R&D facilities for the PFVA, and get familiar with their labs and research work of the PSCIR in agribusiness with a view to get help from them in future for our industry
Chairman , PFVA in his welcoming remarks thanked the Director General, PCSIR for giving time for the meeting instantly in response to the request of the PFVA. He then briefed the PCSIR team about the structure and role of PFVA as the registered trade body. He further described various issues and problems the exporters of PFVA are confronted with relating to standards, various diseases in fruits/vegetables and lack of R&D for the product development.
Pakistan's population is growing at an alarming rate but production of fruits/vegetables is not keeping pace with this rate due to low production (Low yield).Something, therefore, has to be done in terms of R&D for high yield to counter this future problem .
Waheed Ahmed regretted that we are just relying on one variety of Kinnow since ages whereas in China they have managed to develop eight different varieties including seedless Kinnow, hence there is dire need of product development in our country.
Growers are not following good agriculture practices and are unaware of current trend in this sector. They are required to be made aware of modern technology being used globally to get better yield, he said.
He pointed out that Pakistani exporters are confronted with various problems such as fruit flies, lack of varieties of products, low productivity and if these are not seriously tackled, the time is not far when we instead of exporting fruits/vegetables would become an importing country, a severe blow on our face being as agriculture country!
With continuous R&D we are confident to multiply the existing export of fruits/vegetables from US $525 million to US $07 billion in 10 years time, he assured. The reluctance of growers to use modern agriculture technology, non-adherence to good agriculture practices and communication gap between growers and exporters are a few key factors impeding enhancement of exports and is required to be addressed. Other countries have already started working on likely impact of "global warming" on agriculture and we have not yet started thinking about this future threat!
The Chairman, PFVA expressed his keen desire that the PCSIR play an active role in conducting training workshops/seminars for bridging the communication gap between growers and exporters. He also stressed the need for making all stakeholders in the supply chain (Growers, Customs, ANF , Plant Protection department, Shipping lines, airlines, exporters, print and electronic media and agri- research institutions/organisations etc) through the PCSIR to make them aware of their precise role keeping the time and temperature sensitivity of the products (fruits / vegetables ). He also requested that the PFVA and the PCSIR sign a MoU to work closely together.
The Director General, PCSIR thanked the Chairman, PFVA for his detailed briefing and thought provoking innovative ideas about agriculture sector. He also appreciated his concerns and vision about R & D. He assured to render all technical support to resolve issues of the PFVA related to fruits/vegetables which includes testing and analysis.
Dr Rizvi further assured that PCSIR would be happy to assist PFVA on:
-- Developing a specific pesticide for a particular issue.
-- Assist PFVA in developing Ethylene Chambers for ripening various fruits.
-- Conduct seminars for growers/exporters for bridging the communication gap.
-- Assist growers in multiplying the yield significantly by use of "Plant Tissue Culture Technology" (PTCT) which would ultimately benefit exports as well.
-- Provide "soli testing" facility to the growers, and provide technical expertise to PFVA in resolution of any specific issue referred to the PCSIR.
He also spelled out current problems of his organisation as well relating to shortage of staff.
The PCSIR despite having well equipped labs faces problem of acute shortage of staff.
Experienced staff has already retired and a few are due to retire shortly leaving behind a "professional gap "which may not be filled in promptly due to lack of interest of youngsters in this field. The Chairman, PFVA was then taken around to show various labs, including the " Plant Tissue Technology " lab and adjacent area where the plants were kept in the controlled environment for subsequent growth and to develop endurance for the field. The Director General, PCSIR Dr Rizvi in his concluding remarks re-assured to all possible technical advise, assistance and support to the PFVA.