The U.S.-Pakistan Partnership for Agricultural Market Development (AMD), aimed to improve the ability of Pakistan’s commercial agriculture and livestock sectors to compete in international and national markets in the four target product lines; meat, high value and off-season vegetables, mango and citrus. AMD played catalytic role to generate private sector driven investments in the four target product lines by actively promoting cooperation and integration amongst the value chain actors and ancillary service providers. AMD supported upgrading and streamlining of supply chains, provided technical assistance to optimize profit margins, increased participation of women entrepreneurs, and ultimately help make Pakistani meat, high value and off-season vegetables, mango and citrus become more profitable and competitive.
Pakistan is the sixth largest producer of mango in the world. It produces 1.784 million tons annually utilizing 170,000 hectares crop area. Although Pakistan has some of the world’s finest mangos due to their sweetness, aroma and smooth texture, exports of fresh mango are just limited to 64,000 million tons worth US$ 48 million.
Pakistan needs to develop and strengthen the mango supply chain to ensure consistent high-volume, competitively priced and reliable mango exports which meet global standards. Such supply chain requires mango processing facilities, equipped with state-of-the-art processing and packaging machinery, along with strong backward linkages with mango farmers that can supply high-quality mangoes, free of quarantine diseases and pest. To address these needs, AMD provided state of the art graders to 13 mango processing facilities of Punjab and Sindh province to enhance their technological capability, reduce labor costs and shipment processing time, and penetrating into international high-end markets through meeting their grading and packaging requirements. The project also developed the capacity of mango processors and farmers to enter into contract farming with mango farmers to improve their supply chain and compliance of SPS, packaging and traceability requirements.
Lutfabad Mango Farms: Major (R) Tariq, owner of Lutfabad Mango Farm in Multan, is one of the leading mango exporters and processors in Pakistan. But like most Pakistani mango exporters, he faced several difficulties in competing in the international market. Constraints such as dependence on high-cost air freight, limited knowledge of modern grove management techniques, improper harvesting practices and manual post-harvest handling, phytosanitary standards, and limited access to relevant markets negatively impact the competitiveness of Pakistani mango.
Major (R) Tariq believes that sustainable growth of exports and greater profitability hinges upon the use of up-to-date technology and modern processes.
“Our processors still lack operational efficiency due to manual grading and sorting practices currently in place. A grading system and corresponding grading machines with far greater accuracy and efficiency is essential for attaining a standardized product with harmonized shape, size and aesthetics.”
Manual grading causes extensive bruising, limited daily volumes, and inconsistent size/weight grading. This has hindered the Pakistani mango exporters getting a premium for what many consider the world’s best mangoes. Since the grading technology is an expensive investment, Major (R) Tariq continued with manual grading. That was until he learned about the work of the U.S.-Pakistan Partnership for Agricultural Market Development (AMD) for the development of the mango sector. AMD supported the mango sector to improve quality, increase shelf life, reduce transportation costs and help exporters meet export protocols. Under its grant program, AMD provided 13 state-of-the-art imported mango graders through a cost-share mechanism. The new grading machines have improved the efficiency and accuracy of grading mangoes to meet international standards. They also weigh the fruit and sort them according to size, which helps cater to different market requirements. These mango graders were fully functional for the 2017 mango season and were utilized by Major Tariq to grade export quality mangoes.
“The mango sector experienced a significant decrease in production this season mainly due to unfavorable climate conditions. However, I was able to cut cost and improve processing times due to the graders resulting in at least 10-12% increase in exports.”
He exported 400-450 tons to high-end markets in the UK, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and U.S.A. and a further 4,300 tons by road to countries such as Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Iran and Afghanistan. The value of automatically graded mangoes exceeded USD 400,000. Lutfabad Farms also acted as a hub for other nearby farmers, who did not have their own facility to process and grade mangoes for export markets.
“Programs such as AMD continue to help fuel Pakistan’s economy by improving agricultural sector productivity and facilitating exporters to secure new market access and build brand recognition for Pakistani produce,” said Major Tariq.
Asma Tareen – Mango Trainee:Asma Erum, from Shujabad in the suburbs of Multan, is one of 350 women who benefitted from trainings organized by the U.S.-Pakistan Partnership for Agricultural Market Development (AMD) for women from the mango processing sector. AMD arranged awareness and training sessions for women hub owners, managers and workers on maturity indices, grading, sorting, packaging and strengthening linkages between women mango farmers and hubs. The trainings also covered other topics including skill development of women farmers in post-harvest handling of mangoes, to reduce post-harvest pest and disease infestation, to understand the importance of packaging for marketing, marketing of mango in high end markets, preparation of value-added products (pickles, jams), preservation of mango to enhance shelf life and personal hygiene and safety awareness.
As a result of the trainings, Asma was able to set up a home-based business manufacturing and selling mango pickles. Initially, she struggled to attract customers, but gradually she began selling to others in her own neighborhood – and that was when things really took off.
“Once the first couple of jars were sold, my motivation grew. I dedicated a separate room in my house for the business and began considering how I could diversify. Eventually I began adding items such as ornaments, bangles and dresses for women and children,” Asma said.
Asma’s motivation and hard work drove her to better understand and apply the concepts in the trainings and to turn it into a revenue generating activity. Asma was particularly thankful to her husband for his support in order to prosper in conservative region such as South Punjab where the idea of working women is still not widely accepted. She now plans to increase the volume of pickle production and to explore markets in Multan.
“AMD’s trainings helped me immensely, especially in terms of taking my first steps as an entrepreneur. This has not only provided a degree of financial independence but I am also supporting my family and ensuring that my children get the best education” Asma said.
AMD has had a special focus towards creating an environment that encourages, supports, and respects women’s inclusion and entrepreneurship, and simultaneously provides skill enhancement training for women in coordination with AMD’s project grantees.