AGRICULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY: Trial shipment of mango to Europe

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

 

 

 

 

THE first-ever trial shipment of mango for high-end super markets of Europe dispatched directly from two orchards in Sindh is indeed a pioneering effort. Eight such shipments are taking place from all over the country.

Pack houses have been set up at the two farms where mango fruits go through hot water treatment amidst modern farming practices, a pre-requisite for sale in European and other developed countries’ super markets. Two more pack houses are being set up in the province.

The growers who have exported mangoes directly from their farms are Global GAP (good agriculture practices) certified farmers. They have been improving their farming practices over the years.

As part of the USAID project, the farmers were provided with equipment for hot water treatment, grading, packing, blast chilling and cold storage besides picking of fruits as per required methodology. After applying modern farming techniques, the fruit—Sindhri– was directly exported in refer containers from farm to seaport to foreign markets which is inexpensive as compared to by air freight.

Normally growers lease out their farms to contractors who market the crop the way they prefer. Orchard owners borrow money from the contracts which is adjusted against the sales.

However, for the global GAP certified farmers, pack houses are an innovation and a new experience. They invest their labour, fruit and built infrastructure for the pack house. These farmers look forward for government’s research and development
department’s assistance.

Besides, trial shipment, some commercial shipments were also made by farmers through private exporters in Karachi. The exporters got the fruit processed at their pack houses and offered them reasonable price like Rs35 per kg for sending it to different markets. The exporters, generally, have been sending mango to markets in the Middle East and not to the high-value super markets of Europe due to the absence of facilities that now have been made available.

The trial shipment has been made to the port of Netherlands (Holland) in Rotterdam which is due to reach there on July 6.

Two USAID officials working with the project would be in Holland reporting the arrival of the consignment and observing
markets where the fruit is displayed. They would send reports about the response of the market with reference to any shortcomings that were not taken care of.

Under modern techniques, mango picking is done carefully to avoid damage to the fruit followed by hot water treatment.

Mangoes are placed on a sorting panel to move at snail’s pace, allowing farm workers to sort out defective ones. Then they are washed before being dipped in hot water for three to five minutes at 52 degree Centigrade. Grading facility is there too and the fruit is, then, packed in cartons.

“Hot water treatment kills anthracnose disease if any on the fruit,” says Zain Shah, one of the two growers who sent their trial shipment to Netherlands. The sea route is inexpensive for export to Europe and the government should assist mango farmers in this respect. “We have invested Rs500,000 in terms of fruit’s cost, processing, electricity and labour charges besides raising civil infrastructure on our land,” says Zain Shah and expects the government to come forward and share the growers’ burden.

According to Junaid Shah, who sent eight tons of mango in trial shipment, construction of pack house cost him Rs10 million besides other expenses of processing and farm labour. He adds that he also handled some commercial shipments to Dubai, Jeddah and Iran. “Capacity of hot water treatment plant is just one ton per hour and it needs to be enhanced,” he says.

He had been exporting mango through private exporters but often the fruits over ripened causing him losses. “If the fruit reaches the markets in better shape only then we get the required payment and a refer container sells more expensively than a normal open container,” he says.

The blast chillers and cold storage maintain cold chain right from farm to market to avoid over ripening of the fruit and
preserve it for another 30 days. According to a researcher Abdul Qadeer Durrani, shelf-life of Pakistani mango is 35 days after hot water treatment. He has been dealing with mango for 27 years and says that hot water treatment kills bacteria from the surface of the mango.

As far as markets of US and Japan are concerned they link import of fruit to irradiation and vapour hot treatment (VHT) plants respectively. Trade Development Authority of Pakistan is sending trial shipment to Japan in July where Pakistani mango has been given access following a visit by President Asif Ali Zardari. TDAP has floated EoI [expression of interests] for VHT plants whereas a huge cost is involved for the irradiation plant.

Another GAP certified grower Imdad Nizamani — who had sent mango after processing it through same technology in Karachi privately – says that similar shipment was sent to Europe but it was not that successful at that time.

The fruit was given the same modern hot water treatment by the exporter in Karachi. “But pack houses are set up at farms for the first time in Sindh. It will certainly make a difference. Let us wait for shipment results, he remarks.

Growers who export their fruit to markets of Iran and Dubai don’t get better margins in absence of modern agriculture practices where there is a very wide room for improvement. Their profit margin through export could be as high as Rs150,000-Rs200,000 per acre if they adopt modern farm management conditions instead of giving them to contractors — who give them Rs35,000 to Rs50,000 per acre.

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