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Climatic changes take toll on horticulture sector of Pakistan

December 31, 2015
FARHAN ZAHEER
KARACHI
 Pakistan’s fruit and vegetable growers and exporters are convinced that global warming and drastic climatic changes are badly affecting both quality and output of the agriculture sector of the country.

Warning the government, they say if remedial measures are not taken immediately, the country will eventually become a net importer of fresh food and other commodities.

Leading fruit and vegetable exporters have been raising such concerns for quite some time now. But the recent heat wave in the country and other such climatic changes that hit mango production during the current season in Punjab have further fuelled industry fears.

Moreover, recent government warnings that extreme cold waves may follow extreme heat waves in some parts of the country have compounded the situation.

The Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchant Association (PFVA) has squarely blamed storms and extreme weather conditions for the loss of 70% of Punjab’s mango production in the ongoing season.

“It is too early to say that the recent heat wave has affected Punjab’s mango output. But it is true that extreme weather conditions pose a serious threat to the horticulture sector,” Federal Minister for Climate Change Mushahidullah Khan told The Express Tribune.

Replying to a question, Khan said his ministry has started taking up the issues related to extreme weather conditions because they are definitely threatening the food security of the country.

Read: Horticulture trade: Pakistan’s modest share in global exports ‘shameful’

Pakistan cannot take climate change lightly as it has already seen major floods since 2010, Khan said, adding “we are also aware of the fact that Pakistan is among the top 10 most vulnerable countries in terms of climate change.”

Khan pointed out that regional countries like China, India and Saudi Arabia have shown their intent to share knowledge with each other and work jointly to cope with extreme weather conditions that are creating different kinds of problems for the region.

Apart from the recent change in weather conditions in Pakistan, fruit and vegetable experts are equally perturbed about the threat posed by different fruit and vegetable diseases. Mango and orange are the top two fruits that Pakistan exports but both are facing the threat of being struck by some disease.

PFVA Research and Development Chairman Waheed Ahmed said horticulture is one of the most vulnerable sectors in the world so the government should start taking immediate measures to protect it from climatic changes.

“It is the responsibility of the government’s research departments to see what climatic changes are happening in Pakistan’s horticulture and agriculture sectors. And then make sure that growers and other industry people prepare themselves according to the situation,” he said.

Citing an example from Europe, Ahmed said climatic changes have also hit the European horticulture sector over the past 15 to 20 years but they have devised policies for water consumption and to deal with other related problems.

Read: Improving incomes, productivity: Investment in horticulture stressed

“Pakistan is also facing extreme water shortage. If we fail to prepare ourselves now, we may see a major impact not only on our vegetable and fruit production but also on our key crops like wheat, rice and cotton,” he warned.

He asked the federal government to take emergency measures in coordination with the provincial governments to minimise the losses to the agriculture sector.

He feared that the country may be forced to import many agricultural items if it fails to make a strategy to deal with the threat of global warming and other climatic hazards.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th,  2015.

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