Potato export resumes after 2-year gap
PAKISTAN has resumed export of potato after a gap of two years with a consignment of 600 tonnes shipped to Iran.
Shipments started in the second half of this month. Iran has a shortfall of 50,000 tonnes of the crop which will be met by Pakistan, private news channel reported.
Iran used to export its surplus crops to the Russian region every year. Last year due to excessive exports its carry over stocks had dwindled.
Poor potato crop has necessitated import from Pakistan, traders said. Pakistan exported some consignments at $230 per ton but later prices reduced as competitors becoming more active.
Pakistan is expecting to export around 125,000 tonnes of potato this year. After meeting Iranian need, 75,000 tonnes will be exported to the deficit Russian region, it is learnt. The export to Russia in 2010-11marketing season was 125,000 tonnes.
Prospects of potato exports increased with a better harvest this season. Traders have decided not to wait for large export orders and grab even smaller ones this year. They are wary since during the last season farmers had suffered huge monetary losses as there were neither exports nor any subsidy for them to overcome the losses, according to Chief Executive Officer Harvest Trading Ahmad Jawad.
Due to suspension of export activities last year, a large quantity of potato, which stood at around 600,000-700,000 tonnes, is lying in warehouses as well as in fields without proper safety.
Jawad said prospects for potato export grew substantially with the expected arrival of new crop. Pakistan, it is expected, will have a tough competition from India and Bangladesh with their export rate at $200 per ton as compared to $210 for Pakistan which, however, enjoys proximity to regional export destinations.
He also expressed his surprise over the arbitrary decision of the shipping lines to raise freight rates. Export of the commodity would be badly affected, he feared.
The year 2010-11 was excellent for potato farmers. The vagaries of weather destroyed the potato crop in central Asian states and the shortfall was met by Pakistan, accruing in huge benefits to both the growers and traders. With the hope the situation would perpetuate, growers went for additional acreage and had a better harvest in successive years. But with the international crop turning out to be higher than what local farmers had been anticipating, the surplus produce is now stranded, leading to a price crash in the domestic market.
According to an estimate, around three million tonnes of potato is expected 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.
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. Other countries import potato in the range of 2,000 to 5,000 tonnes.
The decline in export is attributed to stiff competition from China, India and Bangladesh, which recently emerged as leading exporters of potato, say exporters. They are offering lower rates per ton to attract buyers.
India has always been a major player in the field and is expanding both production and export of potato internationally and regionally. The situation is challenging for Pakistan, particularly Punjab which produces almost 90 per cent of the crop. Potato is sown here on around half a million acres with prospects of better exports and profitable returns.
Currently potato is priced at Rs500 per 40kg at the wholesale level and with the expected arrival of huge quantity, the rates are anticipated to remain stabilised, which may spell relief for domestic consumers.
The reasons of better potato yield over the years, is attributed to increase in acreage, utilisation of better quality seeds, use of modern technology for the realisation of set targets and improved storage facilities.Potato is one of the main cash crops of farmers as well as among the main exportable horticulture commodities from the country. It is the fourth most important crop by volume of production. It has a high nutritive value and gives good return to farmers. Pakistan is self-sufficient in potatoes for household consumption and relies more than 99 per cent on locally produced seeds.
The country produces good quality potatoes and ranks 20th among the potato producing countries.