LAHORE: Pakistan is failing to get hold of the United States market for its mangoes due to a lack of interest among the local authorities concerned to treat the ‘king of fruits’ to make it competitive in the lucrative foreign market.
The US imports mangoes, mostly from neighbouring Mexico, worth around $800 billion per annum and Pakistan’s annual share in it is less than $600,000 despite enjoying zero duty concession under the generalised system of preferences.
Exporters say that unlike Japan and the European countries, which demand hot treatment of mangoes to allow import, American authorities seek irradiation of the fruit for its acceptance in the market.
Both types of treatment are meant to rid the fruit of white fly and other farm insects.
Though a modern irradiation facility had been set up by the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in Lahore, it is dormant for want of inspection and approval by United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) officials.
Former chairman of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) standing committee on horticulture exports, Ahmad Jawad, says he as head of the body had approached the USDA officials for approval of the local irradiation facility four years ago. He says they had agreed to visit the facility on the conditions that Islamabad would facilitate the travel and lodging of the US inspectors.
But, he regrets, the commerce ministry refused to bear the inspection expenses to be incurred annually in the mango season.
Himself a mango exporter, Mr Jawad says that mango exporters are getting the irradiation facility in the US, which costs them $8 per kg, making their exports less competitive as compared to those of Mexico and India.
He says India has two local irradiation centres; one at Bhabha in Lasalgaon and the other in Vashi near Mumbai.
If Pakistan also wins the US approval for local irradiation of mangoes, it will cost around $3 per kg and thus fruit’s export will become competitive in the international market, he argues.
So far, the country exports around 30 tonnes of mangoes per annum to the US and the quantity may be increased manifold because of the fruit’s demand, particularly among the overseas Pakistanis, he says.
The treatment improves shelf life of mangoes after which the fruit can be exported through sea routes as well to cut the freight charges incurred on air shipments.
Published in Dawn, March 29th, 2021