Pakistan eyes on China to boost potato industry
BEIJING, March 28 (China Economic Net) - Pakistan plans to flourish potato production through Chinese modern technology, high-quality seeds, and grab the Chinese market, said the Pakistani authorities.
Badar Uz Zaman, Commercial Counselor of the Pakistani Embassy Beijing, said Pakistan is one of the largest potato producers in the world.
"The local consumption is around 4 to 5 million tons. We will have a good surplus quantity to export to regional countries. We have also taken up the issue with the Chinese government. In Pakistan, we are introducing machinery from China to many processing plants. The prices of the fries and preserved well-shelf potatoes are extremely high compared with the potato on the farm. So, we need to improve the whole process", Badar UZ Zaman told China Economic Net (CEN).
He further said that China has achieved a very high yield per hectare due to its high-yielding varieties of seeds and efficiency. Post-harvest processing in China is also impressive as the country uses machinery and the process is highly mechanised. Similar things if introduced in Pakistan will help Pakistan take potato production a step further.
"We are using archaic methods and too much labour is involved as the processes are manual. The main issue is the lack of mechanisation. We also need cold storage to increase the shelf life but we lack the grading machinery", Badar stated.
Potato Growers Association (PGA) Vice President Chaudhry Maqsood Ahmad Jutt, also chairman of Potato Research & Development Board, told CEN that in Pakistan the seven districts of Punjab, Okara, Pakpattan, Sahiwal, Khanewal, Vehari, and Multan contribute more than 60 % of potato produced in Pakistan, while Chakwal is one of the booming destinations of potato cultivation, adding that the high production of these areas is mainly due to better irrigation facility.
"Pakistan lacks an efficient seed supply system, new varieties of seeds, technical capacity and training of farmers, and it has inadequate resource allocation to seed systems. The cost of imported seeds is high and most farmers due to a shortage of funds rely on poor quality seed which causes poor yield and China could help us in all these areas", Maqsood said.
Chaudhry Maqsood is convinced that China is a potentially big market for Pakistani potatoes because the price of potatoes is higher in China especially from January to April while the potato crop is being cultivated in Pakistan during this period and it is available at a lower price. He added that Pakistan already fulfills all international standards and exports potatoes to almost all continents, but he believes with the help of China, the country can further improve the quality and per acre yield production.
Professor Audil Rashid, University of Gujrat told CEN that the bumper harvest of potatoes has inspired the potato growers in the country to look for global markets to increase their export and due to CPEC and friendly relationship farmers' eyes are on the Chinese market.
"Previously, despite bumper crops in the country, the potato farmers were routinely suffering huge losses due to prices crashing by nearly 50 per cent. However, currently, exporters are thinking to export not only raw potatoes but other kinds of products. These include sliced potatoes duly preserved following international standards such as those used by KFC and McDonalds. Export of fried potatoes is the other option especially when low-cost containers in the local market are available that can enhance trade manifold between Pakistan and China", he added.
Rashid believes that Pakistan can earn an estimated US$ 2 billion by exporting potatoes and value-added potato products to China. Currently, Pakistan has aimed to increase shelf life and upgrade cold storage facilities to maintain a continuous supply of this valuable food commodity.