Fruit exports up despite low
By Mohiuddin Aazim
overall production of fruits has been falling for some years
owing to a decline in the area under cultivation, lack of
required investment in orchard management, and failure to
contain much of post-harvest losses.
However, export of fruits,
continue to rise thanks to market diversification,
investment by some export houses in fruit processing and
value-addition, and growing use of web-based marketing.
Statistical records of the
Ministry of National Food Security and Research reveal that
the total production of fruits gradually slumped from 7.01m
tonnes in FY09 to 6.52m tonnes in FY13. And, this decline is
not due to lower-than-usual production in just one province.
All four provinces have
reported a falling trend both in the area under cultivation
as well as in fruit production.. Nevertheless, fruit exports
increased from $162m in FY09 to $393m in FY13—and to $438m
The fruits whose output has declined include mango, banana,
pomegranate, guava, date, apricot, peach, pear, plum,
loquat, chiku, coconut, cherry, papaya, persimmon, melons
Production of citrus fruits, too, remains static around 2m
tonnes for the period under review.
But growers say output of
citrus fruits rose past 3m tonnes in FY14 due to better
orchard-care and lesser post-harvest losses.
Many citrus fruit growers and processors have contained such
losses at 15pc or less, down from 20-25pc a few years ago
due to some investment made in fruit picking, storage,
transportation and grading.
The bulk of this investment
has been made by the private fruit processing and export
companies or traditional investors who buy full crop of
selected orchards in advance, either on behalf of exporters
or on their own.
Officials of Pakistan
Horticulture Development Board say the area under
cultivation of fruits has shrunk in favour of major crops
i.e. wheat, rice, cotton, maize and sugarcane because these
crops yield higher incomes.
The total area under
cultivation of all fruits has contracted from about 856,000
hectares in FY09 to a little less than 820,000 hectares,
official stats show.
A big decline in the area under cultivation has been
recorded in case of banana, apple and apricot.
The output of citrus fruits
has remained static (or even seen a modest increase as
claimed by orchard owners) because growers of citrus fruits,
the biggest export revenue earner, have made investment for
better orchard management.
Officials of provincial agriculture departments of Sindh and
Punjab say the area under citrus fruits, apple and apricot
has shrunk in favour of wheat maize.
But the areas cleared off
banana plantations, mostly in Sindh, have been used for
growing rice, cotton or sugarcane.
Frequent increases in support prices of staple food crops
between 2009-2013 has encouraged a number of fruit growers
to switch over to these crops, growers say.
Fruit farmers say a key obstacle in the way of improving the
per-tree production of various fruits is the lack of
knowledge about specific diseases of fruits and the
medicinal spray required to fight it.
They say the Agriculture
University of Faisalabad, PHDB and PCSIR have done some
research work on fruits diseases but neither government nor
the private sector come forward to invest in manufacturing
of the required disease-fighting pesticides.
Most of the pesticides they
use are imported and prove too costly for small and
medium-sized orchard owners.
An equally important factor in fruit production is boosting
the yield of fruits per tree and that requires development
of high-yield varieties in the first place.
Growers say they have planted
new varieties of citrus fruits, including seedless kinnow,
which have been evolved in the last few years.
But growers, who use these
varieties, are not offered constant technical help from
horticulture department to ensure that the new varieties
retain high productivity for a long time.
They also point out that for past few years no new
high-yield varieties of mango and apple have been developed
and some varieties of banana, dates and grapes, that have
been evolved are not being produced on commercial scale.
Production of apple, grape, pear, peach and apricot has also
suffered in the recent past in troubled areas of KP and
Limited availability of cold storage facilities in and
around the clusters of fruit orchards also affects fruits
production because it results in high post-harvest losses,
estimated up to 40pc.
According to PHDB study on
the status of fruits’ production, over dependence on wooden
crates and cardboard boxes for fruit packaging, too,
discourages growers in those areas where these items are
brought to fruit farms from far-away urban markets to pick
and pack fresh fruits often not on time.