As Pakistan and China cooperation in agriculture scales new heights, it remains to be seen if the increasing agricultural trade between the two countries is benefiting farmers.
Protest the denial of his dues, a young farm-hand climbed up a telecom tower this morning (Monday 30 May) in the Toba Tek Singh district in the west of Pakistan’s Punjab province to draw attention to the non-payment of wages.
The young man worked on a mango orchard and threatened to jump, until rescuers negotiated and brought the young man down.
Many other labourers complained that they received subsistence wages and that the were not adequately compensated their work.
As if on cue, mango farmers demanded the dues for their produce that had been acquired by a large exporter.
Coincidently, this morning, an exporter announced that a first shipment comprising 2.3 tons of this year’s harvest of Pakistani mangoes had arrived in Kunming, the capital city of China’s South-Western Yunnan province. Half the consignment will be sent to Chinese wholesalers and retailers as samples, he said.
“We have already got connected with some big supermarkets and e-commerce platforms in China, including Walmart, JD.com and FreshHema,” said Adnan Hafeez, Director of the Pakistani agri-export company, Imperial Ventures.
He said his company has been working on promotion and marketing of Pakistani Mango in China since the last six years and has seen positive growth trend and he expected mango exports from Pakistan to China to touch 100 tons, almost a 100 per cent increase over the last year.
“We have already connected with some big supermarkets and e-commerce platforms in China, including Walmart, JD.com and FreshHema,” Hafeez said.
For effect, the Pakistani businessman added that the Chinese consumers have an emotional attachment to Pakistani products, signalling to the all-weather friendship between the two countries.
Exporters of Pakistani agricultural products have a reason to be bullish. News in the month of May alone pointed to growing exports of an array of agricultural commodities – from fruits to dried fruits and pine nuts to rice and by every indication, their incomes have multiplied.
For instance, the export of nuts and dried fruits from Pakistan to China reached US$65 million in 2021, a surge from $8 million in 2020.
Pine nuts exports from Pakistani to China during the first three months 2022 achieved a historical high of US$ 25.13 million as China imported 2,299.21 tons of Pakistani pine nuts.
And Pakistan’s rice export in the first quarter of this year surpassed 466,000 tons (around half-million tonnes), worth around US$ 176 million.
The volume of exports increased by 9.34 per cent and $175.99 million by worth. Rice exports last year was to the tune of 426,751 tons and was worth $186.45 million.
Pakistan’s farmers have been aghast at a spate of government decisions since the beginning of 2022. In January, farmers protested a hike in electricity tariffs by the former government headed by Imran Khan.
Simultaneously, farmers were also protesting against the manufactured shortage or urea. Urea was being sold in the black market at Pakistani Rupees 2,500 – against an official rate of Pakistani Rupees 1,768.
As if the hiked price of electricity and the artificial shortage of urea wasn’t enough, seed companies hiked prices of seeds as well. The price of maize seed had skyrocketed by Rs 3,000 and was being sold at Rs 5,000. The price of freshly harvested potatoes nosedived, as if there were no takers for the farmers’ produce.
And soon enough, the Imran Khan government, on an advice from the International Monetary Fund, withdrew all tax exemptions to farmers.
Worse, the government even imposed new taxes. The government said that this was necessary for Pakistan to qualify for an IMF loan.
The resulting protests, marked by the burning of effigies of the former Prime Minister in all districts of Punjab, dovetailed into the political moves by Khan’s opponents, throwing the former cricketer out of office.
In the meanwhile, rice farmers in Pakistan Punjab have been complaining of not receiving a fair price for this produce, much of which is exported.
Farmers spilled out on the streets, partly also inspired by the fights put up by farmers in neighbouring India. Again, as it happened in India, the police came down harsh on them.
On Sunday 29 May, Shahzad Ali Malik, Chairman Pakistan Hi Tech Hybrid Seed Association (PHHSA), claimed that Chinese breeding technology was helping Pakistan farmers to easily cultivate high-yield, disease resistant new rice varieties for exports.
He was talking to a delegation of progressive farmers in Islamabad in the presence of journalists.
He said Chinese enterprises and research institutes had evolved new varieties of seeds and introduced excellent cultivation techniques helping farmers which boosted rice production and exports from Pakistan to China.
He said his company brought hybrid rice technology from China to Pakistan in 1999 through a collaboration agreement with ‘Yuan Longping’ a Chinese Agriculture Company that seeks to become a global provider of agricultural technology.
Malik, who is also the founder chairman Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan (REAP) disclosed that China imported more than 466,617 tonnes of rice from Pakistan during first quarter of current fiscal year. This represents an increasing 9.34 per cent by volume and US$ 175,99 million by worth.
He said both countries have close cooperation in the agriculture sector which was showing positive results especially in high yielding rice varieties.