Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan on Tuesday expressed confidence that second phase of Australia-Pakistan Agriculture Sector Linkages Program (ASLP) would help alleviate poverty and improve living standards of small farmers in the country.

Addressing the participants of the event “Showcasing ASLP” Phase-II organized by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), he said like ASLP-I, the new initiative; Agriculture, Value Chain Collaborative Research Program (AVCCR) would also be beneficial for Pakistani farmers.

He said the Australian aid and investment in the agriculture sector of Pakistan has contributed towards alleviating rural poverty through improving agricultural productivity, boosting livestock sector and managing water resources, adding, “We are grateful to Australian government in this regard.”

The Minister said the ASLP funded by Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and implemented by ACIAR with the support of Ministry of National Food Security and Research through Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) is playing crucial role in improving the livelihood systems for the rural poor in Pakistan.

“We very much appreciate ASLP for bringing Australian technical and research capability to Pakistan within value-chain frameworks and paying attention to benefiting the poor and marginalized,” he added. Sikandar Bosan said under ASLP, projects are being carried out to improve the productivity of mango, citrus and dairy sectors of Pakistan.

He said mangoes are one of Pakistan’s most important fruit crops with an annual production of around one million ton and exports of 7-10 percent of production valued at around US$ 20 million per year.

The key production issues that impact upon yield and fruit quality are inadequate orchard and irrigation management, as well as the incidence of major diseases and pests.

About the mango industry of Pakistan, he said it faces many constraints and inefficiencies, among which a critical issue is the level of major losses in the supply chain from overripe, immature, damaged and diseased fruit.

These losses are related to the high perishability of the mango, sub-standard production, harvesting and post harvest practices, compounded by lack of grading, handling and storage infrastructure, he added.

Terming citrus is one of the major fruit crops of Pakistan, he said the country is the largest producer of Kinnow, generating 95 percent of the world Kinnow production, adding, However, in general 35 percent of the total produce is lost.

He said the key constraints identified are poor orchard and nursery practices, inefficient fruit production and irrigation practices, inadequate pest and disease management strategies, lack of rootstocks, over production and post harvest losses, lack of cold storage facilities, pre harvest contract system and disadvantaged growers with lack of knowledge.

He said the government plans to increase milk production and better the level of processed milk, improve product quality and the profitability of small farmers through streamlining marketing and increasing milk production per animal.

The government has identified the dairy sector as one of the key focal points for the ASLP as it has made significant contribution towards improvement of citrus, mango and dairy sectors in the country, he added.

In mango and citrus, significant contribution has been made in water saving through Furrow Irrigation System, establishing disease free nurseries, developing and testing the comprehensive orchard management protocols for mango and citrus, importing poly embryonic mango varieties and identifying new international markets for Pakistan mangoes, developing improved post harvest practices.

All such efforts contribute towards improving the overall production of mango and citrus and these best practices are being replicated and expanded, Bosan said.

Secretary, Ministry of Food Security and Research, Chairman, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council and Australian High Commissioner in Pakistan were also present.