The government should incentivise businessmen to invest in cold storages as it is a vital part of the supply chain for exporting fruits and vegetables as well as for local markets.

Pakistan can earn billions of dollars annually by exporting fresh fruits and vegetables by using controlled atmosphere storage (CAS) technology meant for slowing down the respiratory system of fruits.

“It is indeed a reality that there is scarcity of latest cold storages in the country,” wrote NED-PAK Technical Packaging and Instruments Managing Partner Azizur Rahman Shaikh in a letter to Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam

A certain mechanism has to be delivered by the government, as to how the cold storages should operate in order to extend the shelf life of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Meanwhile, the government should devise a package for the operators and owners against the investment that they make. Pakistan Businesses Forum Vice President Ahmad Jawad said policymakers need to pay attention towards establishing such storage facilities in Balochistan, southern Punjab and other areas where fresh fruits are produced in abundance.

“It is high time the government to announce certain incentives ie owners or operators should get only leased land in special economic zones (SEZs) on a 15-years basis,” he said.

Shaikh wrote, “Although it is the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to build 900 cold storages, the additional secretary who was looking over the concerned department was not aware whether the government had any such plans.”

Read: Experts call for setting up cold storages

The letter further added that the cold storages operating under the scheme with the government should get tax amnesty for 10 years through SRO, while removing the bottlenecks and identifying most critical manufacturing contents.

“We should not forget the importance of freezing livestock. Fish farming and traders in Swat and northern areas have big issues with cold storages facilities,” he added.

“At a certain stage, the fish are at their optimum size and are considered as a waste of feed on daily basis,” Shaikh said. “Every day keeping the fish alive means depreciating the cost of fish or in other words loss for the fish farmers. “However, they are forced to do so despite this loss as there are no cold storages available in these areas.”

Highlighting the importance of cold storages, Jawad said that these are needed not only to reduce food losses, which are significant in Pakistan but also to help farmers get better incentives and income, increase credit to farm economies and help the country’s rural sector to become competitive.

“If the government successfully takes such measures, the country’s horticulture exports may increase up to ten-fold, which would be a great addition to the national exchequer,” he pointed out.

On the other hand, the Chinese are also set to play a major role in the controlled atmosphere storage, both in terms of funding and construction in Pakistan.

The Chinese government is expected to release an initial grant of $22 million for the scheme, Jawad added.

The controlled atmosphere storage facilities will be constructed in collaboration with a specialist company Beijing Fruitong Sciences and Technology Co, which will provide the machinery and installation.

Chinese experts are also expected to train Pakistani scientists and engineers to operate and maintain the technology.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2021.

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