Horticulture produce: Efforts on to avoid annual wastage through cool chain system

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Efforts are on to avoid approximately 30 percent annual wastage worth rupees 60 billion export-oriented horticulture produce of the country through cool chain system (CCS). The process of attracting local as well as foreign investments for the country-wide project of an integrated CCS worth 153. 73 million dollars (Rs 13, 221 million) is currently in place, which would also ensure improvement in grading and enhancement of horticulture produce life.

Chief Executive Officer of Harvest Trading Pakistan, Ahmad Jawad told Business Recorder that horticulture sector which contributed about 12 percent to the national agricultural gross domestic product (GDP), held great potential for increasing export of premium quality horticultural produce, offering multiple employment opportunities throughout the supply chain, particularly in rural areas. Its growth and profitability is, however, restrained mainly due to lack of proper pro-harvest management and transport infrastructure, he said.

During the last decade, horticulture crop production has increased from 11. 3 million tones to 13. 7 million tones, which was expected to reach 19. 4 million tones by the year 2009-10. The production analysis shows that the share of fruits and vegetables is 48. 6 percent and 51. 4 percent respectively. Among the major fruit crops, citrus, mango, dates, guava and apple contribute 30 percent, 25 percent, nine percent, nine percent and five percent respectively in production while in vegetable production potato, onion and tomato share 29 percent, 25 percent and six percent respectively.

As the approval for the project, envisioned under National Trade Corridor Improvement Programme (NTCIP), is currently passing through different stages at government level, Punjab Board of Investment and Trade under a memorandum of agreement with the Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company (PHDEC) signed last year, is securing investments for launching the project in Punjab.

Out of 14. 5 million ton annual production of fruits and vegetables worth around two billion dollars, over half a million ton horticulture products costing 230 million dollars are exported as average export price/unit by Pakistan, is the lowest in the world due to low quality and low end markets.

Jawad urged the government to expedite the process to avoid cut harvest losses of this emerging industry. In Punjab, eight modern pack houses with cold storage facilities, four cold storages, three airport storages and three testing labs would be set up in phases.

The country-wide project aims at setting up a chain of 39 modern pack houses, including cold storage facilities at 31 places, 23 cold storages, 13 production areas, seven airports and three seaports at 23 locations, two reefers/container yards with 200 containers and 50 CA containers each at Lahore and Karachi and six food testing laboratories in six production areas.

About 10 percent reduction in post-harvest losses under the new project would bring savings of rupees six billion (70 million dollars) per annum equivalent to 50 percent of the project cost, Jawad said. Existing storage capacity in private sector caters seven percent of the total production and PHDEC claims that their already under-built four projects at Haripur, Khuzdar, Lora Lai and Bat Khaila will increase storage capacity up to six to seven percent more.

Implementation might take several months because of its approval from Central Development Working Party, Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) and cabinet committee. Presently storage capacity for horticulture products is even less than 10 percent of the total produce despite the fact that there is six percent annual growth in yield and some growers have managed to set up their own cold storages in areas like Quetta, Bhalwal, Okara and other production areas of the country.

The integrated project would link all the growers with one chain. A pilot project could be initiated by a consortium with 30 percent equity and 70 percent debt servicing ratio and could decide the number of pack houses and cold storages in the pilot project, Jawad said.

Courtesy: Business Recorder

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