ISLAMABAD: The Geneva-based International Trade Centre (ITC) has begun a dialogue in Pakistan to identify projects in priority areas of agriculture sector in Sindh and Balochistan under the ‘Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP)’ initiative.

The project, funded by the European Union, will strengthen small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the two provinces associated with livestock, diary and horticulture in a period of over five years.

Following consultations with provincial governments and stakeholders in Quetta and Karachi, the dialogue moved to Islamabad where stakeholders completed the first round of consultations on the that will lead to poverty reduction in the country.

The discussions held earlier this week focused on identification of priority products in the horticulture, livestock and dairy sectors. In addition, key issues such as producers’ capabilities, support service, policy and regulatory environment were also determined.

About the consultations in Quetta, Karachi and Islamabad, ITC’s Chief of Sector and Enterprise Competitiveness Robert Skidmore said the contributions from partners will help ITC achieve a measurable reduction in poverty and increase economic growth in addition to creating more job opportunities.

Speaking during the Islamabad round of discussions, Adviser to PM on Commerce, Textiles and Industries Abdul Razak Dawood said the SMEs make up for the bulk of businesses activities in the country.

In order to achieve coherent, broad-based and sustainable economic growth, there is a need to focus on SMEs and unlock the potential in livestock and horticulture besides other sectors in the country and GRASP comes at the most appropriate time as Pakistan is gearing towards improvement in these sectors, he said.

Cooperation in EU Pakistan Head Milko Van Gool said that GRASP aligns with the rural development and economic cooperation initiatives of the EU in Pakistan as it will help SMEs in horticulture, livestock and dairy sectors become more competitive by making improvements at all levels of value chain.

These consultations will help us adapt to the federal and provincial context in Pakistan for maximum impact on the lives of people in Sindh and Balochistan, he said.

Under the project, the ITC has developed criteria to shortlist priority products through quantitative and qualitative assessment to categorise long list of potential products from the two provinces.

For this, ‘green’ and ‘yellow’ lists have already been prepared for the short listing process, given their good market reputation. Each product has also been analysed based on the environmental criteria for climate resilience.

Pakistan is among the top countries that will be most affected by climate change. The global phenomenon has already started to affect livelihoods of those living in the arid, semi-arid and coastal areas of Sindh and Balochistan.

During stakeholder consultations, horticulture and livestock products were discussed to select top four products for Balochistan from vegetables and fruits including onions, dates, melons, grapes, tomato, olive, apricots and apple, while in livestock sector, sheep, goats, poultry or camel will be decided for two top priority products.

In Sindh, among the horticulture products, five products from vegetables and fruits including onions, tomatoes, dates, bananas, chilies, mango, guava and melon will be shortlisted. Among the livestock products, two products would be finalised for the project from goat, cattle, and buffalo and poultry sectors.

Livestock, dairy and horticulture — which accounts for 70 per cent of the value-added agriculture — have particularly strong potential for growth, climate adaptation and increased participation of women, small and medium-sized enterprises in these two sectors, face major challenges, according to the ITC.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2019

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