Thursday, June 20, 2024

Mango Export from Pakistan and WTO Regime on Food & Agriculture

By Dr. Syed Wajid H. Pirzada

The diversified natural resources [NR] and eco- systems, Pakistan is endowed with, gives Pakistan a comparative advantage in agro-livestock &fisheries [sub] sectors, over her competitors in this area.

The agro-diversity best places the country to produce diversified goods in general and agro-livestock & fisheries products in particular;

Which can cater to diverse market niches and satisfy the [diverse] demand and aesthetic tastes of consumers, in the [emerging] global trade context.

Mango Export from Pakistan and WTO Regime on Food & AgricultureCheap and hardworking labor coupled with [indigenous] knowledge & skills the indigenous people are equipped with, puts Pakistan in an enabling environment, given the political will, to exploit the [comparative] advantage country enjoys in this sector.
Be it refreshening buffalo milk with fat premium, basmati rice with [appetizing] aroma & quality unique to [Pakistani] rice belt, wool for hand-knit rugs & carpet industry, leather goods symbolic of craftsmanship of our people, citrus especially kinnow- a relished Vit. C drink or the king of fruits-the mango, the juicy delicacy of Pakistan, all are unique in their attributes, of commercial value.
To underpin economic development of the country, sustainable trade development remains the cherished goal being an imperative. To this end, one needs to exploit, to national advantage, all export possibilities by unfolding the inherent potential of different [sub] sectors of economy. Such an initiative warrants capitalizing on the strength and managing the weaknesses of these sectors. One of such promising [sub] sectors is that of horticulture, which like livestock, fisheries & floriculture, has enough in store in terms of [future] trade prospects.
With in horticulture sub sector, mango [cultivation &] export, like citrus, has great potential. Mango varaities such as Sindhry, Chaunsa, Fajri, Golden and Began Phaly, just to name few, are in great demand, especially in Middle & Far Eastern countries.
Despite the fact that in a single year [2000], Pakistan was able to export 39,000 tones of mango, she [still] faces multiple problems in realizing the true export potential in this area.

Some of the problems impacting mango trade are summarized below:
.Cost of inputs: water, fertilizer, pesticide, and electricity tariff
.Emerging disease problems e.g. declining productivity syndrome
.(Lack of) value addition: no systematic effort
.(Little) varietal development: inadequate research capacity
.Poor quality management practices
.(Poor) storage & processing: limited capacity e.g. cool chain, low processing levels
.Intermediaries: from growers to retailers /exporters.
.(Inefficient) marketing: no strategic planning.
.(Unreliable) shipment: faces problem.
.Trade Specific:
Pakistan continues to face the embargo, on Pakistani mango, placed by USA 40 years back. Lately Australia, Germany & Japan have banned import of mango from Pakistan on the pretext of Fruit Fly issue.
Post harvest losses account for some 20-40%. And according to one [considered] estimate saving 30% losses would help double mango exports from Pakistan.

A continued ban on Pakistani mangoes, it self speaks of institutional shortfalls for, a country like Philippines was able to overcome this problem, and thus augmented her mango exports. Yet, other competitors in the world, for example, Mexico, Haiti, Brazil, have managed, like Philippines, securing sustainable market niche. Indonesia, India and Bangladesh have also a reasonable share in [global] mango exports.

Pakistan, because of her comparative advantage, can [further] boost her mango exports by addressing the problems constraining mango trade, especially those related to health & hygiene standards and post harvest losses.
As with the advent of WTO, food & agricultural trade has gone global, the food safety & quality issues have got a new prominence. In this context, two of WTO Agreements namely Agreement on application of Sanitary & Phyto-sanitary [SPS] Measures, and Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade [TBT] are of special importance for, these address [food] safety & quality issues respectively and are binding on 145[WTO] Members. Whereas, the former [SPS] Agreement, reaffirms the rights of Member countries, afforded under Article XX (b) of GATT, that has [now] been re-enforced under SPS Agreement.
This Agreement provides that Member should not be prevented from or enforcing measures necessary to protect human, animal and plants life or health, subject to the requirements that these measures are applied only to the extent necessary, are based on scientific principles and are not applied in a manner which would constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination between Members where the same conditions prevail. The [SPS] Agreement also encourages the Members to base their [SPS] measures on international standards, guidelines & recommendations, as to avoid trade disputes.
The later [TBT] Agreement [also] seeks to recognize international standards, where they exist. It [further] provides that, like SPS measures, technical measures enforced under the Agreement should not create unnecessary barriers in international trade, and that these should have a legitimate purpose, and the cost of their implementation should be proportional to the purpose of the measure. The technical measures [standards] under this [TBT] Agreement-The Standard Code, relate to quality aspects, fraudulent practices, packing & packaging and labeling etc.
With [likely] dismantling of tariffs under WTO [AoA] regime, there is natural temptation, on part of the countries to use non-tariff and technical barriers to protect their agriculture from external competition. Industrially Advanced Countries [IACs] in particular have, at times, tendency to use higher [than actually required] health & hygiene and ecological & environmental standards, which tantamount to creating arbitrary & unjustifiable barriers to trade.
Notwithstanding this intent of importing countries, food safety standards, as envisaged by SPS Agreement, and for that matter quality standards sought under TBT Agreement are to be adhered to, if we want to engage gainfully in mango trade. Needless to mention that [better] health & hygiene standards are [equally] beneficial to consumers at home, as these help avoid attended risks, associated with food trade and associated economic losses
It is worth mentioning that if an [SPS], and for that matter a technical measure does not meat the criteria set by these [two] Agreements for example, if [subjective] intent of an [SPS] measure is protection of local industry, as against health & life of humans, animals & plants, it can be challenged in WTO dispute Settlement Body. This however, is not only costly but also a time consuming proposition. As WTO regulations are to be enforced on bilateral basis, it is in fitness of things to harmonize the standards or enter in to equivalence arrangement with trading partners.
Both Agreements encourage harmonization and equivalence arrangement. Needless to mention that in the eventuality of trade dispute [both] trading partners have to make a convincing case to defend their view points, as burden of proof shifts from importing to exporting party during dispute settlement proceedings, based on risk assessment and scientific rationale. Most of the developing countries [DCs] don’t have such a [techno-legal] capacity, and thus they stand to lose in such disputes.
It is [thus] advisable that to avoid [trade] disputes and to sell the produce with confidence and certainty, efforts be made to improve food safety & quality, and [simultaneously] enter in to equivalence arrangements where possible. Such arrangements shall
help contain losses in terms of value of [mango] crop lost as a result of rejections in export trade. [US] Estimates suggests that in food rejection cases, food hygiene problems, contamination with insects and rodent filth ranks at number 1, followed by microbiolo-gical contamination, failing to comply with food registration and labeling requirements, of importing country.
Those in mango export therefore need to manage mango health & quality issues.

Quality management:
.Quality standards need to be introduced for fresh mangoes. These relate to inter alia maturity index of cultivars, post harvest behavior and other quality – related attributes such as injuries & defects, tolerance [limits] etc. Similarly, standards & grades related to packing & packaging and labeling are to be established.

.Minimum requirements with regard to quality, for example, are:The [mango] fruit must be sound. Produce affected by rotting or deterioration such as to make it unfit for consumption is excluded. It should be free from damage and/external deterioration caused by heat and must be clean, practically free of any visible foreign matter. Free from any foreign taste and / or smell.

.Training: In [mango] quality management, especially in the area of sampling & analytical methods needs to be imparted. To this end [specific] training material & courses in the form of manuals & modules are to be tailored and conducted.

.Quality Promotion: Last, but by no means least, Quality Management Facilitators / Promoters, as against the concept of Quality Inspectors, are to be deployed to help mango growers & exporters adopt the required health & quality standards, employing a participatory development approach.

It needs hardly any emphasis that, it is no longer [more] possible [these days] to export [fresh] mangoes without regard to quality & safety standards of importing country. The mango growers & exporters, with the active cooperation, of their Associations/Chambers and Export Promotion Bureau ,need to work proactively on evolving such standards & grades, as required by trading partners through bilateral arrangement, that can satisfy health safety & quality concerns of importing country.
Mango Exporters of Mexico have benefited from such a proactive approach. Mexico used to export till mid nineties her mango with out any quality control. For example, in 1995 [alone] Mexico exported 30 million boxes of mango without resorting to quality standards. The Export Mango Packing Association [EMEX], realizing the challenge ahead got engaged proactively, with Mexican Research Center in Food & Development, for purpose of [quality] standards setting.
In progressive economies,like Singapore, standards setting is carried out in private sector, which assists Government in quality management. Private sector in Pakistan too should embark upon this strategy.
FacebookMango Health& hygiene and safety management
Diseases & Quarantine Laws: number of diseases affect mangoes such as Powdery mildew, anthracnose, sooty mold, root rot & rot of mangoes malformation of inflorescence etc. Some 86+ species of insect pests alone have been recorded on mango. Fruit fly, scale insects, mealy bug & hoppers are important.
The conditions laid down by importing countries, in terms of disease control measures; such as quarantine [SPS] laws need to be met. Most of these countries have regulations aiming at protection of life & health of flora, fauna and human being. For example, under Biosecurity Act 1993, of New Zealand, there have been provided [explicit] import health standards for fresh mango [Mangifera indica]. And until and unless these import health standards under section 22 of the Biosecurity Act are satisfied, entry in to New Zealand of [all] plants & plant products is prohibited.
Plant Protection Department, Government of Pakistan needs to engage in [proactive] dialogue with countries like New Zealand & Australia to harmonize plant [mango] Protection measures.
New Zealand in the recent past has also introduced legislation, under Hazardous Substances Act 1996 that regulates deliberate introduction of new organisms including inter alia Genetically Modified Organisms [GMOs]. Relevant agencies in Pakistan like Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Food, Agriculture & Livestock need to study these regulations and coordinate with Risk Management Authority, Government of New Zealand. This shall help formulate national strategy on GMOs.
The [se] quarantine laws address the issue(s) related to Regulated Pests [Actionable]-those organisms for which phyto-sanitary actions would be undertaken, if they were intercepted or detected. These pests have been categorized, under the Act, into different groups, based on [possible level] of risk associated with these organisms. These groups are, Quarantine: Risk Group 1, 2 & 3 Pests Regulated non-quarantine pests and Regulated non-plant pests.
Similarly Vectors -associated Quarantine Pests, Vectored Organisms, Strains [variants] of pests, Unidentifiable Organisms; and unlisted Organisms have been dealt with under the category of Regulated Pest in the Act. Under Non-regulated Pests [Non-actionable]-those organisms for which Phyto-sanitary actions would not be undertaken, if they were intercepted/detected; categories like Non-regulated non-quarantine pests, Non-regulated non-plant pests and Contaminants such as soil, leaf litter etc have been addressed. For example, lots with more than 25 gms of soil per 600 unit samples shall be treated, reshipped or even destroyed.
Each [mango] consignment thus has to carry Phyto-sanitary Certificate from [mango] exporting country, stating specifically inter alia that the mangoes have been inspected in accordance with appropriate official procedures and found to be free of visually detectable Regulated Pests, as specified by the New Zealand Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry.
The aforementioned conditions are specific to mangoes imported from Philippines. Other countries need to enter in to [similar] bilateral quarantine arrangement such as agreement & work plan (s), with their trading partners.
In addition to the [aforementioned] requirement of Phyto-sanitary Certification, there are[pre] conditions specific to protection, packaging & shipping materials, which for example under the New Zealand Biosecurity Act, 1993, need to be inert/synthetic. Other preconditions could [possibly] relate to transit requirements e.g. mango must be packed & shipped in a manner to prevent contamination by Regulated Pests.
Needless to underline that [mango] consignments, destined for target market, are expected to carry mangoes in intact form, color and at required level of maturity. For this, mangoes must have been carefully picked and have an appropriate degree of development & ripeness in accordance to the criteria appropriate to the variety and to the area in which these are grown. The state of ripeness must be such as to allow the fruit to withstand transport& handling pressures, and thus arrive in satisfactory condition at the place of destination.
The importing country [in this case New Zealand] will only issue Biosecurity Clearance, if she is satisfied that Regulated Pests are not detected and consignment is free of Contaminants.
Capacity Building Initiatives: Following initiatives can help build trade capacity in mango [sub] sector:
.Mobilization of mango growers & exporters as Associations/ Chambers
.Credit Program for value-added exports
.Investment in Mango R &D
.Gene Banks
.Disease control/disease free zones
.Development of quality infrastructure
.Grading/Export Standards
.Training in quality management
.Packing, packaging & labeling facilities
.Specific initiatives are to be taken in the following areas:
Monitoring & surveillance of contaminants:
.Contamination: Food, as we know, itself is a good indicator of environment, in which it is produced. Because of urbanization and concomitant industrialization phenomena, risk of food being contaminated with industrial and other potential pollutants has increased. Surveillance & monitoring of contaminants[thus] alone [thus] help identify and avoid problems.
.Infestation: Constraints on trade resulting from fruit fly especially needs to be managed through appropriate scientific methods. Disinfestation with ethylene dibromide 20 g/m3 for 2 hr was earlier recommended as a [possible] treatment for disinfestation for fruit fly. With the discouraging trends and [consequent upon that] phasing out of this chemical world wide since 1984, it has become imperative to find better alternatives, such as dips and packing line flood treatments with dimethoate (400 mg/L) or fenthion (400 mg/L), and gamma irradiation at 75 Gy. Heat treatments, particularly vapor heat, are yet other alternatives. Irradiation and heat treatments are preferred for these are free of chemical residues.

Improper & unsanitary handling practices e.g. washing with contaminated water are the leading cause of food borne diseases.
Irradiation can serve to decontaminate the surface of these commodities, without residual effects associated with chemicals.
It also slows down the ripening process, and can thus facilitate safer transportation to destined markets.
Doses range from 0.15-1kGy can be applied without appreciable loss of food quality.
.Value Addition:
Some of the value added [mango] products, other than pickles, preserves etc are differenttypes of juice products:
.100% pure or 100% juice
.Cocktail, Punch, Drink & Beverage-less than 100% juice with added sweeteners.
.Fresh Squeezed Juices- not pasteurized
.From Concentrate-reconstituted from Concentrate
.Not from Concentrate-never been concentrated
.Fresh Frozen-freshly squeezed, packaged & frozen.
.Juice on refrigerated shelves-shelf stable products
.Canned Juice-Heated & sealed
.Juice industry can be promoted through value addition and by adopting Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points [HACCP].
.Multan be declared and developed as Mango Export Zone
.Mango Development Fund be established [as a share out of [EPB] available sources; and financial support e.g. up to 25,000 per acre .of plantation & nature of crop, may be provided for 5 years, on lines with Konkan India.
.Establish VHT, Irradiation, Cold Chain and Laboratory facilities at Multan.
.Packaging facility and tax holiday for value-added processing & exports may be provided.
.The mango traders need to seek help of professionals in popularizing – in a creative and aggressive manner – their firms/ products.
.Establish an immediate marketing presence in the destined market [even] prior to physical presence.
.Strengthen their position/ linkages with their trading partners/agents.
.Affiliate with trade group, before they [even] open the office.
.Acquire the critical marketing tools-product information representation in trade fairs, web sites; and for this they need to begin now and act strategically.

Courtesy: The World Trade Review

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