Pakistan’s potential to become top exporter of citrus fruit
PAKISTAN is the 9th largest Citrus exporter in terms of quantity (tonnes). In 2019, more than US $14.9 billion of Citrus fruit was traded across the world under the HS code 0805.
Despite the fact that Pakistan is one of the top ten largest Citrus exporters, the average price per tonnne is significantly lower than its competitors. A case in point is the export of kinow.
While Pakistani Citrus fruit and kinow’s average price in the international market is around US$ 368 per tonne, a similar product of Spain, Canada, USA, Netherlands, South Africa, etc fetches more than US$ 900 per tonne in the global market. Pakistan has an ideal climate for cultivation of a variety of fruits.
Thus, an assortment of tropical, sub-tropical and temperate fruits are grown in the country.
Different varieties of fruits are cultivated on an area of more than 746,628 hectares with a total production of more than 6,963,577 tonnes, according to Fruits, Vegetables and Condiments Statistics of Pakistan 2018-19.
Apart from high demand for fresh local produce, there is excessive foreign demand for quality fruits as well.
As per Trade Map’s global fruit exports data, Pakistan’s fruit exports are 0.3% of world fruit exports and is ranked at 42nd number as compared to other countries. In FY 2019, US$398.77million worth of fruits and nuts were exported by Pakistan, while current world fruits and nuts trade stands at US$135 billion.
Pakistan’s annual average growth in fruit and nuts exports from 2015 to 2019 is negative (-1%). Whereas annual average growth in world fruit imports was 5% from 2015 to 2019.
Top five markets to which Pakistan exports are Afghanistan, UAE, Russia, UK and Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan’s fruit exports to Afghanistan are increasing and a growth of 11% was seen from 2018 to 2019.
However, there is a need to identify other importing countries that have a high potential to import fruits from Pakistan in the future.
Mango and Citrus (Kinow) have dominated Pakistan’s fruits’ exports since many years. Pakistan is one of the top ten Citrus fruit producers in the world and 24% of the total cultivated area under fruit in Pakistan, is that of citrus.
Among citrus fruits, Kinow is the most valued produce and holds the top spot among all fruits, both in terms of exports and production.
It is primarily cultivated in Punjab as climatic conditions in Punjab are perfect for growing this variety of fruit.
Uniqueness of kinow’s taste makes it a highly preferred and demanded item in the international market.
Kinow is also given a separate category in world trade and is traded under the 8 digit product HS code – 08052910.
Analysis suggests that Pakistan’s kinow is losing its share in the international market, primarily due to high number of seeds per fruit.
Though Pakistan may be late, shifting to the less seeded variety of kinow, which was introduced by Researchers at the University of California in 2011can even now enhance exports, particularly within the European and American market.
It is estimated that approximately 20% – 40% of the produce is wasted during pre & post-harvest stages.
Citrus fruit yield in Pakistan (2018-19) is around 5.5 tonnes/acre, while in USA, Citrus fruit yield (2017-18) touches 8.78 tonnes/acre. This gap suggests that in addition to the latest post-harvest technology, Pakistan needs to improve its Citrus fruit yield as well.
Application of techniques to improve yield of Citrus fruit and acquisition of post-harvest technology will not only minimize loss of horticulture produce, but also maximize profit of producers.
Currently, Pakistan produces 2,468,671tonnes of Citrus fruit (2018-19), while it only exports 440,478tonnes (which is 17.8% of the total production).
In best case scenario, an increase in yield to USA level, coupled with better marketing and price increase to US$900, Citrus export revenue (at 17.8% of total production) can increase from US$ 160 million to US$ 631 million, without any increase in cultivated area.
Decrease in post-harvest loss of Citrus from 30% to 20% and increase in percentage of Citrus exported from 17.8% to 30% of total produce can further push the export revenue (from only Citrus fruit) to more than US$ 1 billion.
Thus, the need of the hour is to develop an effective blueprint for development of horticulture sector, focusing on new technologies for pre and post-harvest, as well as establishing a network of cool chains.
It is essential for fruit growers to concentrate on quality improvement of their produce, while exporters need to work towards exploration of new markets.
Investing in horticulture can reap many positive benefits in the form of employment since the rural population is dependent on agriculture for sustenance.
This can also create a significant impact on poverty reduction and positively affect macroeconomic indicators.
However, it is pertinent to note that attention is not given to fruits and local produce that are available in Pakistan, despite its potential.
Horticulture products including vegetables and fruits are a significant category in Pakistan’s trade profile, and it can certainly gain from focusing on fruit exports, given the scale and volume of production.
The government, through its trade development organizations can play an important role in this regard.
Improvement in quality of local produce will surely increase competitiveness, and contribute significantly to Pakistan’s exports in the long run.
—The writer is associated with Policy & Planning Division, SMEDA.