Kinnow industry in deep crisis 50% decrease in export anticipates

Due to quality issue of kinnow, the export of kinnow worth USD 22 million from Pakistan is in jeopardy, Season’s span of 5 months has shrunk to 1.5 months, 50% Kinnow processing plants have shut down, Significant drop in exports’ orders, a big question mark on Rs.300 billion invested in the Kinnow processing plants & employment of 400,000 people!

Waheed Ahmed, the Patron –in – Chief of All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association (PFVA) , has expressed serious concern over the current export situation of Kinnow from Pakistan and demanded for emergency measures to protect and restore the Kinnow industry at the Government level.

Until a few years ago, Pakistan was earning USD 220 million from the export of 450,000 tons of Kinnow but this year, this volume is likely to be limited to 1.5 – 2.5 million tons, which will earn barely USD 100 million.

Sargodha and Bhalwal regions of central Punjab in Pakistan are world famous for producing the delicious and juicy citrus fruit kinnow. The kinnow plantations spread over a wide area are the backbone of the economy of the region, where from the stages of Kinnow farming to processing and packing, 400,000 people are employed and around Rs. 300 billion has been invested in 200 processing plants of kinnow.

The current variety of kinnow was introduced in Pakistan 60 years ago and over time this variety has lost its natural resistance against diseases while the effects of climate change has further weakened the variety leading to significant reduction in yield & quality deterioration.

For the past six years, Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association has been drawing the attention of the Punjab Government , the Federal Ministry of National Food Security & Research (MNFSR) and related agricultural research institutions to the concerns over production of Kinnow, however due to the lack of Government attention, the kinnow industry, generating millions of USD has reached the brink of collapse and it is strongly feared that the export of kinnow from Pakistan will be completely stopped in the next two years!

According to Waheed Ahmed, the current variety of Kinnow has already reached its end of life long ago and due to lack of development of new varieties, Pakistan finds no way out to maintain its position in the export of citrus fruits.

Waheed Ahmed said that the PFVA has been cautioning Punjab and the Federal Government for many years that if new varieties of Kinnow are not introduced, the industry will collapse and employment of millions of people would be at stake while the country would also be deprived of foreign exchange worth billions of Rupees.

Highlighting the current situation, Waheed Ahmed disclosed that almost 50% of the 200 Kinnow processing plants have been closed since the commencement of the Kinnow season. This year, the export of Kinnow is likely to be limited to one and a half to two and a half lakh tons, which will earn barely USD 100 million as foreign exchange.

He further shared that usually any fruit variety reaches its maturity in 25 years, after which modern varieties to replace this variety have to be introduced. The current variety of Kinnow was introduced in Pakistan 60 years ago and despite its “Pretty old age”, new varieties have not yet been developed!

Kinnow orchards have become “hub of diseases” &, the appearance of the Kinnow also deteriorated due to the spots on its skin making it unsuitable for export. On the other hand, the shelf life of Kinnow has also decreased. The export consignments are being rejected and large quantities of Kinnow are reaching the International export market in damaged condition , causing huge financial losses to both exporters and importers.

Waheed Ahmed stressed that there is an urgent need to work on new varieties of citrus fruits, including early, middle and late varieties. New varieties of lemons and oranges, along with mandarin (Kinnow ), if introduced today would take five years to attain commercial production and require the establishment of citrus farms outside traditional areas to protect them from citrus diseases prevalent in existing areas.

Waheed Ahmed explained that the new varieties would be more suitable due to their ability to cope with the effects of climate change. With the cultivation of new varieties, after five years, the export of Citrus fruits can be enhanced up to USD 03 million and with a gradual increase for the next ten years, USD 01 billion can be generated from the export of fresh Citrus Fruits & value added products.

Waheed Ahmed deplored that due to reduction in shelf life and quality issues of kinnow , Pakistan is not getting export orders this year while several buying countries have informed that they will not import Kinnow from Pakistan this year. This season, the export has started from 15th November but due to lack of export orders at the peak of the season, the processing plants of the Kinnow are closed and now the exporters are considering to close their plants permanently and abandon this sector.

Fewer orders have been received from Pakistan’s traditional Kinnow markets of Russia, Philippines, Indonesia, UK and Canada. Due to the short shelf life, most of the Kinnow is being exported by land route to the Central Asian States, in which Tajikistan and Kazakhstan are at the top, but due to the large-scale export, the supply and demand balance in these markets has been disturbed. Buyers are also not buying anymore and exporters are facing a loss of USD 3-4 million on a box of 10 kg kinnow in these markets as well.

The Association (PFVA) has been warning the government about this serious threat for many years, but no steps have been taken by the Punjab Government or on Federal level for development of new varieties for survival of this vital industry.

The caretaker government has formed committees at the Punjab and Federal levels, but the meetings of these committees could not do anything beyond considering the situation and formulating proposals. Kinnow exporters and growers held several meetings with the Punjab caretaker minister S.M. Tanveer in which they agreed on a plan for the survival and revival of the Kinnow industry, but so far no plan has been made.

The PFVA has reiterated its proposals in the Punjab and Federal level committees to immediately develop new varieties of Citrus fruits, establish nurseries for new varieties and regulate these nurseries with legal protection, so that new disease-free varieties capable of coping with climatic challenges can be developed. The experience of China, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and the United States should be taken advantage of for the recovery of the Citrus Fruit industry ….

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