KARACHI -  Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Regional Standing Committee Chairman on Horticulture Exports Ahmad Jawad said on Saturday that six-fold increase in exports had been envisioned in Vision 2025; from $25 billion in 2014 to $150 billion by 2025, but it remains connected, to a large extended, with trade with traditional and new markets.

Talking to newsmen here, Jawad referred to the European Union, whose GSP plus status, he added, offered important untapped potential.

He said that it was after one long year that the government managed to frame the Strategic Trade Policy Framework 2015-18 (STPF), but its implementation posed significant challenges, particularly the achievement of over-ambitious $35 billion export target by 2018.

“The policy framework, announced last year in the first quarter, had faced bureaucratic hurdles that wasted time that should otherwise have been used to focus on propelling the country’s falling exports,” he argued.

He further said that during 2015-16 budget, the finance ministry had allocated Rs6 billion for implementing the policy framework in the first year, out of the total budget of Rs20 billion. “However, the amount remains unutilised till this day,” he lamented.

“This shows that the government wasted an entire year in framing the policy document as its draft remained unattended at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat for six months,” he regretted.

Quoting an official, said it was meaningless to keep the policy draft at the PM Secretariat for such a long time as nothing was changed and the same document was returned.

He said that unnecessary delay could also be gauged from the fact that the Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Law took a month to issue import and export orders after the unveiling of trade policy and they had not notified the subsidies yet.

“Whatever the reason was, the ultimate loser is the country as its exports are continuously falling,” Jawad said, and added, “The policy itself has many loopholes and shortcomings. Foremost among which is its apparent excessive focus on the manufacturing industry, particularly on manufacturers of fans, cutlery, sports goods and leather.”

He further said that before the policy announcement, it was expected that a comprehensive strategy would be adopted for high-value agricultural products, including perishable goods, which were more or less ignored with no effective mechanism except for wheat, cotton, rice and sugar.

Jawad also told newsmen that Horticulture had a significant export potential, particularly of off-season fruits and vegetables that have a high demand in certain regional markets.

“There is a need to adopt latest technology for enhancing exports of these high-value products,” he emphasised. “Pakistan has certain geographical advantages and it is considered a backyard farm of the Central Asian states and also the Middle East with remarkable potential for export of agriculture products,” he said, and added,.“Moreover, Pakistan’s organic and Halal food can also make inroads into global markets, but here again no concrete measures have been taken.”

However, he hastened to add that it was a positive sign that, as a short-term strategy, the policy had identified certain goods including horticulture products, meat and basmati rice, but these should meet international packaging and safety standards. “Incentives should also be given to these products, which were not given in the recent exporter’s incentive package,” he reminded.

“Irrespective of what is missing in the policy, historically the release of funds for implementation has always been a challenge and it seems that this policy will be no different,” he said, and added,

“The targets set in the trade policy framework can be achieved if the government takes prompt administrative and financial measures in addition to adopting new technology for value-addition to traditional exports.”