KARACHI: Pakistan is a major producer of fruits and vegetables globally; production was 7.2 million tonnes of fresh fruits, and 7.8 million tonnes of vegetables in 2019-2020 (Ministry of National Food Security & Research). The country is amongst the world’s top ten producers of mango, dates, onions, and oranges, which are the key ingredients needed for food and beverage processing.
Domestically, firms are taking advantage of the rapid urbanization, change in food consumption patterns, and a growing network of national and international cash and carry stores to boost the sales of packaged food in the country.
Despite the country’s strength in the availability of quality raw material, and increased government incentives such as the Agrifood processing (AFP) facilities, long-term financing facility, promotion of special economic zones to boost manufacturing, and exemption of taxes on import of solar panels, we have not been able to unleash our strength in the processed food and beverages sector to unlock the tremendous export potential and move up the global value chain through the use of trade agreements to seek greater product and market diversification.
Steer processed food sectors growth
In view of improving exports from the country, the Pakistan Association of Food Industries (PAFI) was established to represent the processed food and beverages industry of Pakistan. Most of the leading national and multinational food enterprises operating in Pakistan are members of this newly formed organization.
PAFI works under the dynamic leadership of its Chairperson Dr. Zeelaf Munir, Managing Director of English Biscuit Manufacture, with the purpose to officially represent the needs of the food industry of Pakistan at the highest level of policy making in the country.
PAFI has representation from major food-related organizations of the country and focuses on actively investing in sustainable food systems as well as developing, adapting, and sharing technologies among its members in the wake of the pandemic.
Way forward under the STPF
The incumbent government is going to carry forward the work done under the National Priority Sector Export Strategy (NPSES), as part of the Strategic Trade Policy Framework, 2020-202 (STPF) formed during the previous government’s tenure, which is a commendable move that speaks well for policy continuity in the country. As part of the initiative, the Council for Agriculture and Food Processed has been established, with PAFI as one of its ex-officio members. The association will represent its members at this important forum for the betterment of food safety and sanitation to ensure that the food processing industry’s growth can be increased by manifolds.
Under the Council, PAFI will advocate improving the compliance of safety requirements by its members, which is often the objections imposed by other countries on the import of Pakistani processed food and beverages. The association will also take the necessary steps to ensure that standards and quality of products match the demand of the market. To achieve this, PAFI suggests upgrading the technical capabilities of food processors so that the quality of food processing as well as management of food safety can be made more effective and useful.
Even though the association, within a very short span of time, has showcased credible performance, there is a need to revise and learn new strategies for better output. However, the fact that PAFI understands that the processed food and beverage sector can help increase farmers’ incomes in the country, while simultaneously strengthening the value-chain linkages between the growers and the manufacturers is a step in the right direction, which includes adopting the well-planned export strategy developed under the NPSES/STPF initiative to promote processed food and beverages from Pakistan in export markets.
The association, in collaboration with the STPF, will actively invest in sustainable food systems to develop, adapt and share technologies. It is trying to connect private sector food-related businesses and retailers to make sustainable food options attractive, available, and affordable.
It is the earnest hope and mission of the concerned bodies to create a more favorable export environment for Pakistan, one where the individual talents, immense economic potential, and enduring spirit of the concerned industries can be fully realized.