By Kazim Alam, The Express Tribune
KARACHI: In a marked departure from the past practice of selling unripe fruits abroad to grab a larger market share, kinnow exports from Pakistan will start from December 1, say industry officials.
“It’ll be the first time that kinnow exports from (all over) Pakistan will begin simultaneously. It was at our request that the commerce ministry had banned kinnow exports until December 1,” said All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association Chairman Waheed Ahmed, while speaking to The Express Tribune on Tuesday.
According to data compiled by the association, Pakistan exported 225,000 tons of kinnow last year against the target of 300,000 tons. It fetched the country a total of $125 million.
The exporters lost money in the Russian market because oversupply of kinnow brought down its retail prices. With exports of 114,400 tons, Russia was the largest foreign market for Pakistani kinnow in 2011, showed the data.
Kinnow production is expected to be 1.8 million tons this year, which is likely to fetch $110 million from foreign markets if Pakistani exporters meet the supply target of 200,000 tons, Ahmed added.
Last year, Pakistani kinnow was sold at a price of $6.50 per 10 kilogrammes in foreign markets. However, its price is expected to increase to $7.50 in December, he said.
Traditionally, the kinnow export season starts in November every year and lasts until the first week of March. But as a result of the collective decision of kinnow exporters this year not to export before December, the season is going to last until April.
Major export destinations for Pakistani kinnow include Russia, far eastern countries and six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Iran and Indonesia are also big export markets for Pakistan, but their potential cannot be exploited for various reasons.
For example, Indonesia can potentially be a market of 2,000 tons, but the current export level is nowhere near that in the absence of implementation of a preferential trade agreement between the two countries.
Similarly, exports to Iran came to a halt in the middle of the season last year because banking institutions were reluctant to facilitate bilateral trade. “We exported between 80,000 and 90,000 tons of kinnow to Iran last year. The government should try to resolve issues to take full advantage of the Iranian market,” he said.
Pakistan does not export kinnow to the United States because of ongoing quarantine issues. Only three countries from Western Europe – England, the Netherlands and Norway – are major buyers of Pakistani kinnow, he said.
“People of the South Asian origin are the primary consumers there. Europeans don’t like our kinnow because it has too many seeds,” Ahmed said.
The association is going to present before the government a comprehensive proposal to set up subsidised research and development (R&D) projects, he said, emphasising Pakistan could increase its exports substantially if it focused on R&D.
According to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the biggest export market of Pakistani kinnow was Afghanistan in 2011, which bought $45.3 million worth of kinnow, followed by Russia, whose purchases totalled $28.5 million in the same year.
However, Ahmed says the WTO figures are contentious, noting that Afghanistan could not possibly import that much kinnow from Pakistan because of its tiny population and weak purchasing power. “My suspicion is that Pakistani kinnow goes to central Asian states from Afghanistan,” he said, adding the WTO takes into account trade done through land routes while his association’s statistics are largely based on trade via sea routes.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 28, 2012.