Prospect of export of potato By: Mohammad Arifeen - Articles Detail
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Prospect of export of potato  Back
By: Mohammad Arifeen
Potato is one of the principal cash crops of Pakistani farmers and the primary exportable horticulture commodities from the country. It is the fourth most significant crop in term of bulk of production. It has a high nourishing value and gives beneficial return to farmers. Pakistan is self-sufficing in potatoes for family consumption and depends largely on locally produced seeds. Pakistan produces good quality potatoes and ranks 20th among the potato producing countries. Punjab produces almost 90 percent of the potato crop. Potato is sown here on around half a million acres with chances of better exports and profitable returns.
 After a break of two years from the current month Pakistan is anticipated to start the export of potato. In the past year the large bulk of potato was lying inactive either in the warehouses of farmers or in the open field without any thorough security. This year exporters have determined not to wait for vast export orders but to take orders of even of lesser quantities. Pakistan will face a hard competition with India and Bangladesh as its commodity is expected to be less as compared to Pakistan.
According to an estimate, around three million tonnes of potato is anticipated to be produced this season as against 2.3 million tonnes last year. After meeting the domestic demand of around 1.5 million tonnes, a surplus of around 1.5 million tonnes will be available for export.
The reasons of better potato yield over the years, is ascribed to increase in acreage, utilisation of better quality seeds, use of modern technology for the realisation of set targets and improved storage facilities.
 Pakistan's first state of the art potato washing and grading machine was installed in Karachi and is hoped to boost the dwindling export of potatoes. The machine was imported at a cost of Rs 10 million.
Iran used to export its surplus crops to the Russian region every year. In 2012 year due to excessive exports its carry over stocks had dwindled down. In 2010-11 marketing season, Pakistan had exported around 50,000 tonnes of potato at the rates of $200-$210 per ton to Russia as heavy snowfall had completely destroyed its potato crops.  
Poor potato crop has necessitated import from Pakistan. It exported some consignments at $230 per ton but later prices reduced as competitors becoming more active.
The decline in export is ascribable to tough competition from China, India and Bangladesh, which came forth as leading exporters of potato. They are offering lower rates per ton to attract buyers.
India has always been playing an active player in the field and is expanding both production and export of potato internationally and regionally. The situation is thought-provoking for Pakistan, particularly.
The annual export of potato from the country averaged out to be somewhat 50,000 tonnes during the preceding 5 years which could be encouraged by concentrating on the regional markets including Sri Lanka and Malaysia
The county could expand its exports to Sri Lanka and Malaysia. The share in Sri Lanka and Malaysia can be enhanced substantially. Markets in East Europe and Africa Regions could also be explored for enhancing exports.
Vegetable exporters have demanded of the government a subsidy on exports of potato to remain competitive at world markets at a time when Pakistan is self- possessed to produce the commodity in surplus this year.
 The government should announce a 50 percent freight subsidy or invoice subsidy to export remaining 300,000 ton potato in surplus, to remain competitive.  India, China, Holland and Bangladesh are already providing subsidy on exports of potato and if Pakistan does not do the same then farmers may not get a fair price for the commodity this season also.
 Potato producers were selling the commodity at a discarded price for the past two years since Pakistan's exports of the commodity fell to nominal in such two years due to price war at world markets.
  Singapore, Gulf countries and Iran are some other major potato importers of Pakistan. Iran remained no more a buyer of Pakistani potato because US has put tough economic sanctions on this country sometime in 2012.
Pakistani exporters failed to take advantage of quality bumper crop of the potato in the face of its decades old methods of manual packaging and grading, which deterred international buyers from placing huge orders and instead they preferred Indian potato.
Furthermore on account of application of very old methods of washing and grading the export market was very limited to few countries only including Sri Lanka, Malaysia and some Gulf countries limiting the scope of its export.
The flourishing market of Europe, Central Asian States and Russia remained out of reach for Pakistani potato with few exceptions during previous years but with introduction of state of the art machine there are strong prospects of opening of lucrative market for Pakistani vegetable.
 The quality of Pakistani potato is far better compared to its competitors in India Bangladesh and Egypt as the first generation seed used for harvesting were imported from Holland regarded as one of the best across the globe.
Indian farmers utilized local seeds, which do not correspond to the quality, taste and nourishment of Pakistani yield and any proper effort to market and introduce them in remunerative markets of Europe and Central Asian States can yield massive demand from foreign buyers.
The continuous rains in the central Punjab is not allowing any reduction in the humidity level in the last few weeks, potato harvesting has been delayed.   With delay in harvesting, the entire crop would hit the market at the same time, generating excess and price break apart. Early hint to such a crash are already coming out.
Pakistan which contributes a large part to national potato production, should plan domestic production and export better quality potato. It has some one million tonnes of surplus production in its current circumstances. Any summation to it, for better seed or increase in acreage, would ensure domestic excess. This has to be dune with proper planning and execution..
With potato coming forth as export crop, Pakistan needs to realise that that major problem for it is non-availability of any internationally acceptable seed. Most of the farmers have to use imported seed either from Holland or India for maintaining quality and quantity of their produce. This import makes potato growing a highly high - priced business.
Pakistan must ensure application of balanced fertiliser, as potato is particularly a short duration crop. It needs a substantial   part of phosphorus, potash and nitrogen. India is using beyond normal fertilizers and is applying growth regulators for its potatoes.