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Citrus quality to meet global demand                                   Home
By Dr Sardar Riaz A. Khan

CITRUS comprizes of different edible fruit species like mandarin, oranges, grapefruit, lemons and limes. Out of 6,52,000 hectares under fruits, about 28 per cent is under citrus having a share of 30 per cent in total production of 57,42,000 tons.

About 94 per cent of citrus production area is in Punjab, 2.3 per cent in Sindh, 2.4 per cent in the NWFP, and 1.3 per cent in Balochistan out of the total 1,71,000 hectares.

Out of the total production of 17,02,800 tons of citrus the share of Punjab is 95.5 per cent; of Sindh 1.6 per cent; of the NWFP 2.2 per cent; and of Balochistan 0.7 per cent. Punjab’s share is the biggest due to its climate. Sargodha, Sahiwal and Toba Tek Singh are major citrus producing districts in Punjab. Kinoo mandarin, being an exportable fruit, has a production target of 70 per cent of the total. It is one of the major sources of income to small and medium size growers and traders.

Pakistan is among the 10 largest citrus producing countries of the world. Citrus, till 1974-75 was the second largest fruit after mango both in area and production but took the first position after the introduction of kinoo variety by the then Agricultural College and Research Institute, Lyallpur now the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.

The parent cross of this variety was made between “King” and “Willow leaf” varieties by H.B Frost in 1915 at the Citrus Research Centre of the University of California Riverside, US and was subsequently released in 1935. It was introduced in Punjab and flourished well in that environment. Further improvement in taste and flavour made it popular within and outside Pakistan. Its demand has increased in the Middle East, the Gulf States, Europe and the Far East eventually raising the export earnings.

Citrus production worldwide is around 104 million metric tons per annum with Brazil being the largest grower of 19.2 million metric tons followed by the US. However, the US leads the world with an average yield of 30 tons per hectare followed by Brazil with of 20-25 tons, and China 18-20 million tons.

Though Pakistan is the fifth largest kinoo exporting countries but its average yield per hectare is 9.2 tons per hectare, while of all citrus fruits its is 9.4 tons. It reflects on poor exploitation of production potentials.

Though the demand of Pakistani fruits is enormous but our exporting potential is a mere eight per cent due to a big chunk of 25 per cent going to waste on account of poor management during harvesting, transportation, packaging, and storage. There is a need to follow the well established production technology, improve post harvesting, packaging, transportation, and storage facilities. The storage life of fruits can be extended by 50-100 per cent by using wax technology and of kinoo up to 30 days.

Pakistani kinoo has a great demand in international market but a higher number of seeds are one big constraint with an average 12.2 seeds per berry as compared to 11.2 in musambi, 9.5 in feutral and 8.8 in succari. Seedless cultivars are preferred by the international consumers.

Seedless variety of Washington Naval Orange and Marsh variety of grapefruit is developed in the US and the Citrus Research Centre in the University of California, Riverside is engaged in developing seedless kinoo variety which may not be costly to import but could challenge our variety. The horticulture scientists should develop seedless fruit to meet the future challenges.

Seedless fruits fetch premium price and there are two variable approaches to produce seedless kinoo. The conventional interploid (2N multiplied by 4N) hybridization can be combined with tissue culture procedures to produce triploids (3N) which are seedless, and the other radiation breeding. Both these approaches can be employed in widening the fruit’s scope.

However, in both these approaches more than one generation of fruit trees are required to be raised which takes many years. The normal seed of kinoo is diploid (2N) and tetraploid (4N) introduced by the University of Agriculture Faisalabad in 1988 as the second required parent for interpoid hybridization.

It took several years to get triploids (seedless) cultivars which started to flower and fruit. But these require several years for empirical testing before being recommending to growers for replacing the seeded kinoo. Due to official snags, most of this valuable plant material was destroyed.

A competent horticulture scientist has established an Institute of Horticulture Sciences in the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. It follows both breeding and biotechnological approaches in collaboration with the National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering, Faisalabad. If saved from further official snags, it has the potential of meeting the challenges of producing commercially acceptable seedless kinoo or other alternate citrus varieties.

Kinoo has the longest growing period and is a late maturing variety with short crushing and processing period. This causes problems to citrus industry. Due to soft skin, the fruit is damaged during harvesting and transportation thus causing heavy post harvest losses.

The horticulture scientist should consider using the biotechnological and radiation technology to produce early and mid-season seedless kinoo varieties with better skin to overcome these problems.

The growers suffer from poor quality and low producing seedlings purchased from the unspecified nurseries using inferior and infected budwood. Orchards raised from such nurseries are short-lived and produce a fraction of the potential yield. The loss due to poor quality seed further reduces the income of growers.

The world’s best fruit growing countries have self- sustaining certification programme backed by the government agencies and research institutes which provide longer production life to orchards with yields three times more than ours.

The policy makers should consider implementing a nursery certification programme to produce long duration orchards with high production capacity of quality fruits. Another problem is the post-harvest losses which inflict heavy foreign exchange losses due to the rejection of consignments.

Though Pakistan is among top 10 producers but its current export is much below than the production. Proper production technology, marketing and high quality should be focussed for competing in international markets. Another area is an increase in export of frozen concentrated juices of citrus and other fruits.

Russia has offered Pakistan to cut 25 per cent in import duty on 26 items, including fruits and fruit juices. Similarly, China has shown interest in importing Pakistani mango dipped in hot water. The policy makers thus should exploit this opportunity in the best national interest.

Courtesy: The DAWN;

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