Sunday December 10, 2023

Agrifood: An untapped industry

By Our Correspondent
August 17, 2022

LAHORE: Despite Pakistan’s strength in availability of quality raw material and increased incentives such as Agrifood processing (AFP) facilities, the country has not been able to unleash its strength in exporting processed food and beverages.

Domestically, firms are taking advantage of the rapid urbanisation, 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. However, 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 among the world’s top ten producers of mango, dates, onions, and oranges, which are key ingredients needed for food and beverage processing. We have yet to move up the global value chain through the use of trade agreements to seek greater product and market diversification.

To improve 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 the country are members of this newly formed organisation.

The PAFI works under Dr. Zeelaf Munir, managing director of English Biscuit Manufacture, with a purpose to officially represent needs of the country’s food industry at the highest level of policy making in the country.

The incumbent government is planning 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.

The PAFI will advocate improving the compliance of safety requirements by its members, which is often the objection 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. The association aims at 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.