Pakistan’s already restricted mango exports to high-end markets in doldrums 

Mango exports to commence by May 20, HWT plants, packhouses and orchards yet to be audited

ISLAMABAD: Due to recent interceptions of rice exports in Russia and subsequent Russian warnings of a ban on rice imports from Pakistan, Pakistan’s plant quarantine system has been exposed among trading partners. The Department of Plant Protection (DPP) has neither conducted an investigation nor taken remedial actions as demanded by Rosselkhoznadzor, the National Plant Protection Organization of Russia.

While the DPP deals with the rice problem. A much bigger problem is at hand once again. Pakistan’s mango, the infamous king of Pakistani fruits, is facing strict quarantine and food safety inspections and regulations on its way to the European Union, Iran, and other countries.

According to details, Pakistan produces about 1.88 million metric tons of mangoes. Of this amount, Pakistan’s mango export season starts from May 20th and runs until the first week of September every year. Pakistan exports around 0.13 to 0.16 million tons to 79 countries. The main mango exports of Pakistan go to Afghanistan, which is around 0.05 million metric tons, followed by the UAE, about 0.049 million metric tons, and Iran, approximately 0.030 to 0.035 million metric tons. Pakistan exports around 0.005 to 0.006 metric tons to the EU and UK.

According to the laws set up by various countries, Pakistan’s mango export to the EU, Iran, Australia, and Korea is subject to phytosanitary conditions of hot water treatment, while the exports to Japan is subject to the condition of vapor heat treatment. 

The US has also permitted the import of mangoes from Pakistan at the Houston port only, where it conducts irradiation of the mango shipments from Pakistan upon arrival and then accords release. Due to stringent and high phytosanitary import conditions, Pakistan’s export of mangoes to these countries is almost far less than their import potential. 

One major reason for this prejudice against Pakistan’s imports is that the DPP is unable to carry out compliances of phytosanitary import conditions of such countries due to its lack of infrastructure and shortage of qualified and trained manpower.

The DPP, the National Plant Protection Organization of Pakistan, an attached Department of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MoFS&R), is mandated to regulate the import and export of agricultural commodities with respect to sanitary and phytosanitary measures. They are responsible for the biosecurity of Pakistan by preventing the entry and spread of alien biosecurity risks – insects, plant diseases, causal organisms, weeds, contaminants, and food safety issues. They are also responsible for making compliances of the phytosanitary import conditions of Pakistan’s trading nations for the export of Pakistani agricultural merchandise.

Despite the importance of the DPP, the hirings are not given enough importance as highlighted by Profit previously.

Now the mango season is due to start on May 20, 2024 and the DPP has not yet completed the annual audit of hot water treatment plants, packhouses, and mango orchards. The list of accredited facilities has not been communicated to the USA, Korea, Kenya, South Africa, and Japan. The arrangement to invite inspectors from Korea and Japan for a pre-clearance program to export mangoes from Pakistan to Korea and Japan has not been finalized. 

All of this is going to delay the export of Pakistan’s most prestigious fruit to such countries. Scores of risk analysis dossiers are pending with the DPP to finalize negotiations with the trading nations for market access and export of Pakistani commodities.

Insiders reveal that concerned ministries and departments have not paid heed to the mango export program so far to bring money into the country. They shared that rather than supporting the fragile economy for bringing in more export revenue, the ministries are being indulged in inquiries regarding the wheat import scandal. Besides, the DPP also finds itself under scrutiny, amidst recent interceptions of rice in Russia and wheat import controversies.

Ensuring compliance poses a significant challenge for the department, given the presence of numerous Hot Water Treatment (HWT) plants with an acute shortage of qualified officers to supervise their operations.

HWT Plants:

For the past two years, out of fifteen, seven hot water treatment plants, i.e., Lutf Abad Hot Water Treatment (HWT) Plant, Multan, Hyder Shah HWT Plant, Tando Allah Yar, AZZ HWT Plant, Karachi, Hamza Impex HWT Plant, Karachi, Ramzan Associates, Multan, Al-Mustafa HWT Plant, and Zarpak Horticulture HWT Plant, Shujabad, have been suspended by Iran for defective treatment and issuance of fake treatment certificates and non-compliance with its standards.

Though departmental officers were posted during their operation along with a technical person, from pre-shipment inspection agencies, to monitor the disinfestation procedure as per the standard specified by Iran. They joined hands with the plant owners and favored them to issue treatment certificates without proper disinfestation treatment to mangoes, as insiders revealed. This is because the exporters think that untreated mangoes have more shelf life than treated ones, and they offer the plant owners to take their disinfestation charges and issue them treatment certificates so that based on such treatment certificates duly endorsed by the DPP inspectors, they can get phytosanitary certificates from the DPP and ship consignments to Iran with fake treatment certificates.

Apparently, the DPP officers are afraid to implement the disinfestation standard of mangoes at the hot water treatment plants because the plant owners have filed complaints against the officers with the FIA and involved them in inquiries. The FIA kept them waiting the whole day in their offices and humiliating them.

According to insiders, the DPP should have registered criminal cases against the suspended plants that have issued fake treatment certificates to get phytosanitary certificates from the DPP falsely and brought a bad name to Pakistan, but the DPP has not taken this step due to political pressure. In contrast, the DPP officers are standing in the accused box and facing inquiries from the FIA for restricting them and binding them to disinfect the mangoes in accordance with the standard of Iran.

What is going to happen?

Since the export season is almost here, insiders anticipate that the DPP inspector, without an audit of the treatment plants, may approve the plants again like the previous years to carry out their services. DPP officials complain that the authorities do not support them. They support the businessman and listen to them and even take action on their hearsay without any evidence. 

However, this act of the Ministry of National Food Security is not in the interest of the country. Instructions must be issued that no plant should start work unless or until it fulfills the standard of the importing country, and they must order to lodge FIR against the plant owners who have played with the system. No consignment should be allowed to be exported that does not fulfill the phytosanitary requirements and the MOU between Pakistan and the importing country.

If the DPP inspectors do not conduct a proper audit using mangoes as per capacity and continue to allow such plants to export, without observing standards, soon, Pakistan may face a ban on the export of mangoes in the EU and Iran. Even farmer organizations emphasize the need for stringent action against quarantine rule violators to ensure the export of high-quality and properly treated mangoes and safeguard Pakistan’s international reputation.

Ghulam Abbas
Ghulam Abbas
The writer is a member of the staff at the Islamabad Bureau. He can be reached at [email protected]


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