Potato is one of the very rare cases in which Pakistan is not just self-sufficient for domestic use and seed development, but also an exporter. During the first four months of the current fiscal year, overall vegetable exports of Pakistan swelled by 90 percent in quantity and 57pc in value thanks to brisk potato shipments.
“Vegetables were exported every year depending on their availability but potato and onion hold a big share. A bumper potato crop has proved highly helpful in offsetting the falling exports of onion,” said Waheed Ahmed, Patron in Chief of All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association (PFVA). Last year, floods in Sindh and Balochistan have devastated onion crops, while Pakistan’s potato production soared to 7.937m tonnes in FY22 from 5.873m tonnes in FY21, up by 35pc as floods did not hit Punjab which is a hub of potato production
However, the industry is still facing a lot of challenges. “Potato is not a crop for poor people because its initial cost of production is high. 35-40% of the cost goes to seeds,” said Syed Ijaz ul Hassan, director of Potato Research Institute Sahiwal.
Pakistan imports 20,000 tons of potato seeds every year. To change this situation, Potato Research Institute Sahiwal is making efforts to develop local potato varieties. “The institute has create the potato varieties including PRI, Sadaf, Sahiwal, Cosmo, and Ijaz 22. Some of the seeds grown in Sahiwal produce as much as foreign breeds, and some produce even more,” added Syed.
Pakistan potato is exported mainly to CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries like Russia, Azerbaijan, Iraq, UAE, Oman, the entire gulf and Singapore, Malaysia in the Far East. “I hope that we can expand our export to more countries in the future.” Waheed said.
Syed believes that China is a potentially big market for Pakistani potato, because the price of potato in China is higher, especially from January to April every year. “We can say that potatoes are cultivated and harvested in Pakistan in some form around the whole year. We have three crops of potatoes. The first is called Autumn crop. We sow it in October and harvest it in February. The second is an imported variety, which is harvested from January to April. The third is the hill crop cultivated from April to September.” Syed explained.
Syed also mentioned that the appearce of Pakistan potato can be a plus point. “In international markets, like Dubai’s market, they demand Pakistan’s potatoes more because of their beauty and color. If we use this advantage, we can export to China. China has a large market. If we cannot export fresh potatoes then we can export them as starch and frozen fries too.”