KARACHI: Due to falling vegetable prices on world markets, Pakistan earned a meagre amount despite exporting a record quantum of 1.035 million tonnes in the first nine months of the current fiscal year.
Pakistan fetched $235 million from vegetable exports during 9MFY23 compared to $240m from 675,331 tonnes in the corresponding period last year.
The average per-tonne price (APT) in 9MFY23 dropped to $227 from $356 in the same period last fiscal year.
Previously, the country exported 1.022m tonnes in the entire FY19 which fetched $234m.
In the last five years, vegetable exports have shown a brisk trend, while consumers have, on many occasions, paid higher prices for various greens due to demand and supply gaps, crop failures, and expensive imports from various countries.
The national average price of potatoes during March remained almost the same at Rs30-80 per kg compared to July 2022, while the price of onions surged to Rs120-220 from Rs60-120 per kg during the same period.
Exports of vegetables further thrived to reach 1.176m tonnes during July-April FY23, fetching $261m. In the entire FY22, vegetable exports stood at 937,203 tonnes ($310m) compared to 950,369 tonnes ($319m) in FY21. Exports in FY20 were 825,457 tonnes ($298m), while in FY18, export earnings from vegetables amounted to $240m from shipments of 880,848 tonnes.
Waheed Ahmed, patron in chief of the All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers, and Merchants Association (PFVA), told Dawn that potatoes and onions constituted a significant portion of total vegetable exports. Potatoes are being shipped to Commonwealth Independent States, Russia, the Far East, and the Middle East, while onion exports have recently begun and are finding their way into the Far East.
He recalled that Pakistan had to import over 150,000 tonnes of onion (by sea and by land route) at a rate of $300 per tonne from September 2022 to February 2023 due to crop devastation caused by flash floods in Sindh and Balochistan during August 2022. However, this import did not match onion’s monthly consumption of 200,000 tonnes.
Mr Waheed said that currently, 2,000 tonnes of onions and 3,500 tonnes of potatoes are being exported every week. Other items of export include green chillies, bitter gourd, sweet gourd, apple gourd, lady finger, etc.
The export of fruits during 10MFY23 amounted to 555,375 tonnes ($232m), compared to 541,407 tonnes ($411m) in the same period last fiscal year. The average per-tonne price of fruits plunged to $419 from $760.
Regarding the realisation of export proceeds, he informed the SBP on May 31, 2023, that some banks are consistently applying liens of three to nine per cent on exporters, even when exporters have requested an extension of the realisation period of up to 120 days from the date of shipment.
He said that banks’ reluctance to accommodate these extensions is primarily due to their fear of potential penalties from the SBP.
Waheed urged the central bank to advise banks to adopt a more flexible approach towards exporters. This would enable exporters to request their buyers to expedite payments, as the current lien percentages of three to nine per cent are likely to result in substantial losses for exporters besides holding up their payments abroad.
Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2023