Shortage of hot water plants hurting mango exports to Iran

Published July 21, 2020
Mangoes are undergoing hot water treatment at a plant.
Mangoes are undergoing hot water treatment at a plant.

ISLAMABAD: The delay in the approval of six additional hot water treatment plants (HWTPs) by the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) has hit the enormous export potential of Pakistani mangoes to Iran, the All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA) said on Monday.

In a letter addressed to the Minister for National Food Security & Research Syed Fakhr Imam, PVFA Chairman Abdul Malik said that deliberate delays and biased approach of the DPP favouring some HWTPs was hurting mango exports.

“Iran is a promising international market for the export of Pakistani mangoes. In 2019, Pakistan earned foreign exchange of $21 million by sending 30,000 metric tonnes of mangoes to Iran. By reducing the cost of production, Pakistan could increase the volume of export by at least thirty per cent,” the letter said.

All mangoes exported to Iran have to pass through the hot water treatment process to meet phyto-sanitary requirements.

The PVFA alleged that DPP — which falls under the Ministry of National Food Security and Research — is favouring ‘approved’ HWTPs in Sindh which are taking full ‘financial advantage’ of the situation, while keeping the six proposed facilities inoperative.

The association is making efforts to increase the number of approved HWTPs to bring down the cost of treatment.

Much before the start of the mango season, on the insistence of the PVFA, PPD invited an Iranian quarantine team to visit Pakistan and inspect additional HWTPs so that consignments could cross the Iranian border without delays and cost of treatment could be reduced to half.

The Iranian team visited Pakistan in September and October last year and inspected 19 HWTP in various cities. However, the DPP did not share results of the inspection even six months after the visit. After repeated reminders, the department informed that the Iranian team approved only five facilities.

Following the serious concern expressed by the association, the Iranian quarantine department asked DPP to carry out re-inspection of the additional six disapproved plants on their behalf in view of Covid-19 situation so that minor deficiencies could be removed.

“Without intimating the association of this development, the DPP carried out a ‘technical audit’ of three HWTPs. Moreover, the review of previous inspection report was carried out in such a short notice that the owners of HWTP had to spend about Rs600,000 to make the plant ready for re-inspection in short notice,” the PVFA letter said.

Mr Malik, in his letter, alleged that DPP used planned and deliberate tactics so that mango season in Sindh comes to an end and leaves no space for these plants to get approved and begin operations. This was “purposely done” to ensure that a few “favourite approved HWTPs” can maintain their monopoly and gain huge financial benefits.

The letter added that SOPs were being violated as mango consignments from Punjab, which should have been processed by HWTPs in the province, instead have phyto-certificates issued by facilities located in Sindh.

The association urged the minister to carry out a forensic audit of DPP for the past five years which would reveal more wrongdoings on the part of the department. DPP lacks manpower to cope with a wide range of tasks related to imports and exports and also needs major reforms to improve its efficiency, the PVFA suggested.

Published in Dawn, July 21st, 2020

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