US to release $1. 5 billion under..

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ISLAMABAD : The US will release $1. 5 billion to Pakistan this year under the Kerry-Luger Bill, but final decision rests with the US Congress, said United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director Dr Andrew Sisson.

He said that most of USAID funding was being directly disbursed to the development programmes of Pakistan. He said that non-governmental organisations were also involved in development process, but priority was given to government departments. Talking to media after a conference on Pakistan Mango Industry, he said that approximately $1. 5 billion would be released this year, of which USAID would have $1. 3 billion. Top priority of USAID and US Department of Agriculture is vitalisation of agriculture sector in Pakistan, he said. We have already a significant investment in agriculture, and plan to expand it further , he added. This year, he said, through its FIRM project, USAID would spend $3 million on technical support in exporting mangoes to US market. As a first step towards regulations, US Department of Agriculture agrees to provide certification to Pakistani mango exporters , he added. He said their top priority included upgradation and development of sectors like irrigation, agriculture research, extension, technical support to mango exporters and development of value chain linking farmer to the market. For the development of horticulture crops and dairy development at federal level, we are working closely with ministry of food and agriculture, and at provincial level farmers have been invited to identify and design such programmes , he said. USAID is supporting farmers by providing seeds, fertilisers and other agriculture inputs. We are working closely with government, United Nation and local organisations , he added. Regarding expected export of mangos to the US, Minister for Food and Agriculture Nazar Muhammad Gondal said his ministry has completed initial work for mango exports to US. US market is big, beyond our expectations, and we may not find any mangoes locally in coming season , he added. He said he expected this season trade of mangoes to US would be doubled, keeping in view the size of the market. Earlier, members of Pakistan s mango industry had gathered at a conference here on Tuesday to celebrate the successful 2010 mango season--the best year in the history of the country s mango exports. The American people have been working hand in hand with Pakistani mango farmers, government officials, and entrepreneurs to get Pakistan s mangoes into the international markets, said Andrew Sisson. Over the past year, USAID helped local producers to ship mangoes to major fruit and vegetable importers and supermarkets in Europe for the first time. USAID also supported introduction of an internationally-recognised quality certification, trained mango farmers on modern techniques, helped upgrade infrastructure, and assisted in links with international buyers. Pakistan s first ever mango exports to the United States are expected in 2011 mango season. A former Speaker of National Assembly, Fakhar Imam, informed the farmers that out of total agriculture produce the share of horticulture is 2 percent. He said that out of 30 fruits only 4 and 5 percent are being exported. In his introductory remarks, Zahoor Ahmed, DG, National Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, highlighted mango export potential and GoP support to private sector. He said in session of mango Pakistan would be able to export high quality mangoes not only to US but also to Canada, Australia, Japan and European countries. With US support, Pakistani mango growers began exporting their produce to European markets, upgraded infrastructure and methodologies, and set up systems for shipments to the United States. With annual production exceeding 1. 5 million tons, and demand growing around the world, Pakistan s mango sector has tremendous potential for growth. Increased mango exports will directly benefit two million Pakistanis, raise revenues for numerous businesses, generate employment, and boost the economy throughout Pakistan, especially in southern Punjab and northern Sindh.

Courtesy : Business Recorder

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