Sir: Farm produced food have a short shelf life, but if the good is processed into new products, for example turning wheat into biscuits, than it’s shelf life greatly increases helping a country achieve higher food storage and security. Pakistan lacks a good food processing industry and our country exports raw food rather than processed products at higher rates.
Our country also has the World’s 5th largest population and therefore a very large market for food. In recent years due to the WTO rules many new processed food products like cheese, breakfast cereals etc have been imported and sold in our country. But with these imports our trade imbalances also have increased.
Recently while shopping in Bharia Town near Rawalpindi I noticed a box of Kellogs Coco breakfast cereal. The box proudly displayed the sign “made with wheat from Indian fields”. The manufacturer facility was listed as in India. Shocking as it was to find Indian manufactured products in Rawalpindi, the box also gave me an idea.
The Government of Pakistan are trying to ban processed food imports into Pakistan. But this can lead to increased smuggling. Therefore the Government should advocate for the establishment of local manufacturing plants of processed food companies. The incentive for these companies would be to sell to Pakistan and also be able to sell to Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. Cheap local labor and raw material would be additional benefits. While the icing on the cake would the Government’s efforts to highly tax processed foods imports.
Many of the major food companies like Nestle, Pepsi, Coca cola, P&G, Unilever etc are already operating in Pakistan. While the establishment of such industrial sector will increase jobs, improve nutrition and increase food security. Malaysia had achieved success through such an initiative in the 1990’s. While for developed nation’s the processed food industry has increased their food storage by many years.
Shahryar Khan Baseer,
Published in Daily Times, October 20th 2018.