Cherry exports change fortunes of people of Gilgit-Baltistan: Official
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 30 (Gwadar Pro) - Pakistan’s Ministry of Commerce is engaged with the General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) to secure the access of Pakistani cherries to the vast Chinese market, an official of the ministry told Gwadar Pro.
Dr Kausar Zaidi, Director General (Agro) at the Ministry of Commerce, said that Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) area of Pakistan is famous for the production of high-quality cherry fruit. We can export cherries worth up to $250 million from GB area to China, which will be a big boost to the economy of the region, he said.
Cherry is among the 313 items which have duty-free access to the Chinese market as per the upgraded Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between China and Pakistan. However, the fruit has currently been put under quarantine procedure by China, he said.
The official said that the Ministry of Food Security of Pakistan has sent their report on Import Risk Assessment (IRA) and other relevant materials to GACC, which is presently evaluating the same. Afterward, a protocol of inspection and quarantine requirements will be signed between the two countries to enable the export of cherries to China, he said.
Cherries from GB are cost-effective for China as compared to importing the fruit from far-off areas because of the shared border, the official said. Cherries have a very limited shelf life; therefore travel distance matters a lot in this regard, he said.
Zaidi said that China was importing cherries worth over $3.5 billion from distant nations including Argentina. GB is next door, so it has a tremendous potential to export cherry fruit to China, he added.
The official said that after entry to the Chinese market, cherries will become a major source of income for people of GB. “This will not only bring prosperity to the otherwise deprived area, but it will also push them to grow more cherry trees to earn more foreign exchange,” he added.
Cherries are also grown in the Quetta region of Pakistan’s Balochistan province and other parts having a cold atmosphere. Pakistani farmers have to rely only on the local market for the precious fruit, thus getting meager returns.