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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Competition Commission (CCP) found that the commodity sector, heavily regulated by retail price controls by deputy commissioners, runs counter to the principles of a market economy and creates markets black.

According to a pilot study, “Farm-to-Retail Supply Chain Assessment – (Tomato and Onion)” in Pakistan 2021 conducted by CCP, retailers in general have expressed concerns about the established pricing mechanism. by provincial governments, which may be one of the reasons for the discrepancy between these actual retail prices and those set by the district administration.

The Pakistan Competition Commission (CCP) found that the main factors influencing availability and prices include supply shortages, perishability and shorter shelf life, lack of grading and packaging, manipulation by commission agents, the level of enforcement of price regulations and inadequate awareness. on prices and availability.

Various factors influence the supply of tomatoes and onions.

The main findings of the study revealed that a variety of factors disrupt supply chains, distort competition, exploit farmers and add inefficiencies to the economy.

Prices for essential kitchen items are trending upwards

The main results revealed that significant price variations were observed from farm gate to retail in all study districts.

Actual retail prices are considerably higher than prices, which were obtained after adding overhead, transportation and profit margins to the auction price, in accordance with provincial governments’ assumptions.

Insufficient availability of quality seeds and other inputs reduces yield.

Non-institutional funding by commission agents exploits farmers and is one of the barriers to entry into other markets.

High post-harvest losses and the lack of grading, packaging and branding regulations also limit the ability of farmers and market players to compete, the CCP observed.

The CPC recommended that better coordination between federal and provincial governments can help prevent price and supply chain distortions.

For example, timely sharing of data can prevent price manipulation. Therefore, increased awareness of market players on the availability of products and their prices will promote competition.

This coordination between the federal and provincial governments is necessary, if not urgent, to ensure an uninterrupted supply of essential products.

Production forecasts, overabundance and crop stress situation should be taken into account in each province before making such decisions.

Short-term recommendations included effective supply chain management.

Commissionaires or Beoparis are the primary controllers of the supply chain and movement of vegetables from one Mandi to another.

The study team observed during the investigation that the same bulk batch of onions (usually a truck) is sold several times from one Mandi to another and then to the next. The timely sharing of data between provinces, districts and their public availability can be useful in identifying supply gaps.

The Punjab’s “FRIENDS” and the KP government’s “Mandi App” could be used effectively to share information publicly. The district administration should closely observe and ensure that this information is freely available in Mandis, so that traders can ensure a timely supply, the CCP said.

The CCP’s medium-term recommendations revealed that most post-harvest losses could be avoided with adequate training of farmers on the appropriate harvest time, techniques and use of packaging materials for transport to Mandis.

The role of provincial agricultural extension departments is essential in providing such training and sensitizing farmers to strategies to reduce post-harvest losses.

The CCP pointed out that farmers are exposed to exploitation by commission agents.

The provincial government could plan to provide easy, interest-free loans to farmers.

Kissan cards can be a good move in this regard.

The PCB stated that the declaration of crops is of great importance in the planning process.

The declaration of harvests requires comprehensive reforms, which can be planned for the medium or long term.

DC to ensure the sale of essential products at government tariffs

Medium-term reforms include capacity development, integration and triangulation of information with other departments such as revenue, agricultural extension and SUPARCO.

According to long-term recommendations, quality inputs such as seeds, fertilizers, water and pesticides are the main determinants of good production and high yield.

Pakistan imports nearly 80 percent of tomato seeds and 40 percent of onion seeds.

The respective provincial administrators must ensure the supply of seeds of types adapted to the climatic conditions of each ecological zone.

Likewise, the provincial government should address the excessive use of pesticides, which can pose a threat to food safety.

There is a need to promote and subsidize seeds of disease resistant agricultural varieties.

The post-harvest losses of tomatoes and onions are significant.

In the countries of the region, India has adopted useful strategies to reduce post-harvest losses, which may be instructive for Pakistan. Provincial governments could consider upgrading cold storage facilities through public-private partnerships.

The private sector should be encouraged to build cold stores. These facilities may have only a limited impact on tomatoes but could be a very worthwhile investment for other essential perishables such as potato, onion, etc.

However, along with other strategies, these facilities could play an important role in reducing postharvest losses.

The CCP said the introduction of new generation packaging materials can help reduce waste. In addition, collapsible plastic packaging or nestable containers could be introduced.

India has encouraged and introduced the use of plastic crates, which have been shown to be very effective in reducing post-harvest losses during packaging and transport. Pilot projects for next-generation packaging materials can be initiated by provincial agricultural extension services.

Currently, there is less than one percent processing of tomatoes and onions in the country.

Although this is a long-term strategy, improving the added value and processing industry of tomato and onion can significantly contribute to reducing post-harvest losses, to cope with the overabundance and stressful period of products, increase economic activity, create jobs and generate income for the country. The government must create an enabling environment for the private sector and encourage the processing industry. It can help to raise awareness among consumers and hence boost agricultural production, the CCP report added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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