LAHORE  - Kinnow growers have expressed concerns over what they say the low price of the citrus they are given by the exporters and demanded of the government to fix the fruit price for every season.

During a “Trade Related Technical Assistance Programme (TRTA II) for Pakistan” held in cooperation with European Union, Punjab Government, International Trade Centre, Pakistan Institute of Trade and Development (PITD) and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) Pakistan chapter at a local hotel here on Wednesday, kinnow growers seemed unhappy with the government policies. They also suggested that these types of training programmes should be organised at citrus producer districts. Similar concerns had been expressed by the mango growers. 

As per them, the growers are not given the proper price of their products. Besides, the cost of inputs, especially fertilizers and pesticides, is unpredictable. High cost of electricity with heavy loadshedding, they held, is another headache for them.  Talking to TheNation, kinnow growers Shahbaz Bajwa and Zulfqar Bajwa from Sargodha, who also represent the Kinnow Growers Association of Pakistan, said that Pakistan produced about two million tons of citrus annually and 90 per cent of which was kinnow. Kinnow grew at 80 per cent agriculture land of Sargodha districts (Bhalwal, Kot Momin, Silanwali and adjacent localities), they held, but the government paid no attention to solve the problems they were facing for years.

“Our association also failed to resolve the problems of growers and we are totally dependent on exporters’ mercy,” they regretted, saying this season they were given Rs500 per mund (40kg) price of the kinnow against the set price of Rs700.  “We got bumper price this year but failed to meet out expenditures,” they said, warning they would go to cultivate other crops if the situation remained the same.  This merits mentioning here that Pakistan, though a major citrus producer, is still lagging behind in modern techniques when it comes to enhancing the value of citrus exports. This year, despite having a bumper crop, the country could produce only 30 per cent of the total production of kinnow, due to which citrus producers face severe financial constraints as it entails selling the produce locally at ‘lower’ prices.

Meanwhile, a statement issue by the government stated that the government was committed to address the issues faced by the agriculture sector through policy reforms and in that connection the public private dialogue (PPD) mechanism established by the EU funded TRTA II programme is a useful platform, said Fazal Abbas Maken Additional Secretary Ministry of Commerce.  The TRTA II programme is funded by the European Union which aims at enhancing export competitiveness of Pakistan.  Maken said the government should take steps to address the issues hindering value addition particularly in kinnow and mango sectors.

Sajid Hussain, DG PITAD, stated that he visited the mango and kinnow fields and the donors were doing great job to address the issues faced by the sector but the problems were enormous and would need a long effort.

Bruno Valanzuolo, Chief Technical Advisor, TRTA II, highlighted the importance of compliance with sanitary & phytosanitary issues and international standards. He stressed that due to non-compliance with these standards, hundreds of consignments of Pakistani mango and citrus are rejected every year. He emphasized that business operators will have to come forward to work collaboratively with the government to address those issues.

More than hundred stakeholders from public sector, private sector civil society and academia participated in the PPD, added the statement.