WEB DESK: At a time when the value of exports of the country is falling fast, every possible step is required to be taken to arrest this woeful slide as far as possible. In this context, it is good to see that the government is now concentrating its attention even on minor exports.
Speaking at a seminar titled “Export Potential of Chillies”, Minister for Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Bosan said the government is taking measures to tap the chillies’ export potential of 90,000 tonnes a year which could help the country earn $ 47 million. For that, the country has to improve supply chain, increase per-hectare yield and adopt modern techniques to make chilli crop free of Aflatoxin, a substance that can cause liver damage and cancer.
The minister expressed a great concern over a steep fall in the exports of commodity after a number of shipments were rejected. He underlined the need to set up research institutes to enable farmers to use modern techniques for growing, picking and processing of chillies. He also asserted that “when exports of chillies or other spices are rejected due to any reason, it not only hurts the entire supply chain but also directly hits the rural economy”. In his address, TDAP Chief Executive stated that Pakistan used to export substantial quantities of chillies but the volume has recently declined due to restrictions imposed by some countries, particularly the European ones, due to aflatoxin contamination. The President of Red-Chilli Growers Association, Kunri urged the government to set up a chilli development board so that all the stakeholders have a platform to get their issues resolved.
Although there could be a number of reasons for the overall decline in exports in the recent period, all analysts are of the view that one of the major reasons for this negative development is the lack of diversification of Pakistan’s exports which continue to be concentrated in a few major items such as cotton and its products, rice, leather and surgical instruments.
The fact that decline in exports has forced the authorities to find other sources of foreign exchange is a good omen for reducing the dependence of the country on a few export items and increasing the resilience of the economy against excessive price fluctuations of a limited number of products in the international market. Coming to the exports of chillies, it may be pointed out that Pakistan has a lot of potential to export the commodity. The soil of Kunri and other chilli growing areas in Sindh is best suited to its production and its annual output is around 200,000 tons of which 90,000 tons worth $ 47 million could easily be exported. As far as exporting countries are concerned, top exporter of chillies is India with a global market share of 36 percent followed by China with 11 percent, Bangladesh with 8 percent and Pakistan with 6 percent market share.
Unfortunately, Pakistan’s exports decreased by 35 percent after Aflatoxin and micro-toxin hit the commodity and value of exports declined to only $ 4.7 million in 2014-15. The fact cannot be denied that top importing countries in the world are the US, the UK, Netherland, Germany, Japan, Malaysia and some Middle Eastern countries which are more health conscious and cannot tolerate the import of sub-standard commodities. In order to increase the production of disease-free chillies and enhance their exports, Pakistan has to work on several fronts. It is sad that there is no disease-free nursery and no other facility for obtaining disease-free seeds for our traditional variety, dandicut, which was in high demand all over the world. The age-old traditional technique of drying the commodity leads to poor quality and high production costs.
A multi-million chilli drying plant was set up in Kunri some years ago but remains dysfunctional due to negligence of relevant authorities. Aflatoxin contamination is certainly a bolt from the blue which, according to some experts, could be managed by proper picking and handling, improving traditional sun-drying practices, better sorting and use of high-tech dehydration plants to dry chillies. In short, a number of measures have to be taken simultaneously to increase the export earnings from this source.
If the full export potential could be realised, it would not only benefit the economy of the country but could change the lives of people in the chilli growing areas. There could be many other areas of activity like honey production in Swat and horticultural operations in hilly areas of the country which could also yield a lot of dividends provided there is the will and the resources to do it. No stone should be left unturned to arrest the present declining trend in exports.
Source: Business Recorder