The lucrative US mango market may again remain out of reach of Pakistani exporters this season as a result of strict irradiation compliance imposed by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and failure of relevant local public sector organisations in resolving procedural glitches.
Since the mango export season is only a few weeks away, exporters are concerned that a big market where consumers relish the aroma, taste and flavour of Pakistani mangoes may be lost due to inaction of Pakistan Horticulture Development and Export Company (PHDEC) and the Ministry of Agriculture.
"Willy Nilly, authorities' disinterest is providing space to India which has excess to US market to have a firm foothold and make Pakistan's entry difficult," said an angry exporter. Although Pakistani mango varieties are far superior as compared to limited Indian varieties, they do not meet the requirements to guarantee that the fruit is free from contagious infectious diseases.
Chief Executive Officer Harvest Tradings, Ahmad Jawad said he had requested the Ministry of Commerce to prioritise lifting non-tariff barriers for US market access. As the existing protocol of irradiation in the US is too expensive, "what we want is a playing field and Pakistan government must try to get us the same comfort and facility approvals that were given to Indian mango exports to the US," he said.
He said it was a typical case of "businessman-proposes and public sector-disposes". While international sanctions on Iran brought down Pakistan's mango exports by no less than 30,000 tons in the last season, fruit exporters insisted that the typical tardiness resulted in Pakistan losing at least three potential mango export markets last year.
The export target, last year, for mangoes had been set at volumetric 150,000 tons but exports fell short by 23 percent, as the exported quantity of Pakistani mangoes was only 135,000 tons. Similarly, while exporters expected that selling mangos overseas will bring dollars 50 million to the country, the actual revenues were only dollars 39 million - 22 percent less than the original target.
United States is the largest importer of mangoes in the world and we must take benefit from this opportunity. The USDA had approved the quality of Pakistani mangoes for export in 2010, but till date export couldn't entertain in bulk volumes due to some technical and costing issues.
Directives must be issued to Embassy of Pakistan in Washington to sort out the matter for Pakistani mangoes with USDA & APHIS officials soonest possible so that US mango lovers could entertain themselves with the taste of our mangoes in a cost effective way. Pakistan has been working for a long time to enter the US market with its high quality mangoes but the conditions and requirements set for Pakistani mango exports to the US have made it a costly affair. Jawad said that till date mango importers in the US were concerned about the financial feasibility of selling Pakistani mangoes as due to high prices they may not be able to clinch much of a market except for the niche die-hard Pakistani mango fans.
Shipping and handling costs around dollars 22 for a two-kg carton which is too high and unless exporters are given more options for shipping and irradiation destinations to bring down costs and facilitate importers in the US market will remain out of their reach.
If mango exports come to a halt, it could prove embarrassing for efforts dubbed as "mango diplomacy" in 2010 when the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had offered to help Pakistan export the fruit in a bid to ease anti-American sentiments here.
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