OKARA: Pakistan can earn about $2 billion through potato export to China as containers are available at cheaper rates to local exporters under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) while potato should also be exported to the markets of the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Russia.

This was stated by Potato Growers Association (PGA) Pakistan president Mian Muhammad Siddique and vice president Chaudhry Maqsood Ahmad Jutt, also chairman Potato Research & Development Board, who were talking to Dawn.

They said they were waiting for forwarding the proposal to the government but they are waiting for the last 1.5 years for a meeting with Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Razak Dawood who was too ‘busy’ to spare some time to formulate potato export policy. They claimed that suggestions had already been sent to the Agro Wing working under the Federal Ministry of Commerce.

Mr Siddique and Mr Jutt said a five-year policy for potato export was to be made by a five-member committee formed at a webinar, presided over by Mr Dawood, but it didn’t happen. The participants in the webinar included the then federal commerce secretary, the director of the Potato Research Institute (PRI) Punjab, the patron-in-chief of the Vegetable Export Association (VEA) Pakistan and others. However, no meeting was convened since then and the current harvesting season of potato was also approaching its end.

The farmers claimed that this year potato production was bumper and it was estimated to be 6 to 7m tonne surplus but it was still just six per cent of the Chinese annual consumption (6m tonne). They said China faced a shortage of table potato from February to May.

On the other hand, 105-110kg sack rate had fallen to Rs1,000 to Rs1,300 and beside this, the growers had to bear average Rs500 labour per bag expenditures from field to market. At the start of harvesting season, the price was Rs3,000 per sack at fruit and vegetable markets of Okara and Dipalpur. Okara district contributes more than 22pc to total national potato produce.

Both the farmers mentioned said 230,000 tonne potato had been exported by the private sector on its own but the export was reduced after the Ukraine crisis. However, Iraq is going to purchase potato from Pakistan and Russia is in dialogue to import potato.

The farmers, who are suffering heavy losses due to cut in potato price, demanded the Ministry of Commerce to take steps to end the plight of the growers. They said districts of Okara, Pakpattan, Sahiwal and Kasur should be given special attention because of their massive potato produce.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2022

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