China to import 300 tonnes of Pakistan’s chilli in August

Web DeskWeb Editor

14th Jul, 2021. 05:56 pm
China to import 300 tonnes of Pakistan’s chilli in August

BEIJING: China will import 300 tonnes of chilli picked and dried at a pilot chilli field in Lahore, Punjab in August, said Wu Guang, general manager of Pakistan Subsidiary, China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC).

It is the first time Pakistani chilli will enter the Chinese market since 2020, he added. In July, a pilot Chilli farm project under the cooperation between Pakistani farmers and their Chinese partners – CMEC and Sichuan Litong Food Group – began to bear fruit, with a yield around three times Pakistani varieties.

Chen Changwei, chairman of Sichuan Litong Food Group, China, said that their pilot chilli farm project successfully completed 100 acres of plantation in the first half of 2021 in Lahore. For the 100-acre-pilot-project, the quantities of seeds are 380 grams/acre, with a yield reaching 3 tonnes/acre. The total production is expected to reach 300 tonnes.
While chilli is grown on 47,349 hectares in Pakistan with a crop yield of around 2.68 tonnes/hectare (1.072 tonnes/acre) and an annual production of around 126,943 tonnes in FY 2018/19.

As per Chen, they have brought a total of 13 varieties of Chinese chillies to Pakistan since 2019. It took them three years to conduct the pilot programme, and of all these 13 varieties, two varieties, namely, PJH-302 and PJH-407, have been certified for cultivation in Pakistan.

“We’re going to arrange a team of three agricultural experts on each chilli field of around 0.165 acres,” Wu Guang told China Economic Net. And these agricultural experts will train Pakistani staff in planting technology.

Advanced Chinese irrigation systems have also been introduced into the field. Umer Diyal, a farmer who worked in the pilot chilli farm in Qasbi, Lahore, said that the Chinese introduced an irrigation system, and the expense of fertiliser has been reduced and every plant was getting water. “Watering of plants is not complex and expensive anymore,” he said, adding that contract farming helps a lot when it comes to addressing farmers’ concerns about marketing.

“Agriculture-related economy is vulnerable, so we’re conducting contract farming with Pakistani farmers,” Guang said, adding that Pakistani farmers undertake to supply agreed quantities of chilli, based on the quality standards and delivery requirements of CMEC. In return, CMEC agrees to buy the chilli, at a price that is nailed down in advance.

“When the chillies are ripe, they are naturally dried and then shipped back to China for further processing,” Chen Changwei said.

“This model generates employment in the rural economy, reduces risk for firms, and provides income for farmers,” Guang said, adding that in the next phase of the pilot chilli farm project, as many as 3,000 acres of land would be brought under chilli cultivation.

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong praised the chilli farming project, saying that the project is expected to produce more than 8,000 tonnes of dried chillies with a net income of more than Rs100,000/acre for the local farmers.

Lastly, Pakistan has another advantage over China in growing chillies. Sequential cropping is feasible here, as the climate, soil, and water of Pakistan are different from that of China. Chilli is a tropical and sub-tropical plant, which requires warmer weather.

Changwei said that the largest planting area of chilli in China is its northern part, which turns cold after September, so mostly chilli can only be planted for one season in China, while in Pakistan, “We can complete two seasons of planting as long as we avoid high temperatures from [the] middle of June to August.”

“Our ultimate goal is to cooperate with our Pakistani friends on 200,000 acres of land here,” Changwei said. Based on the planting, they will further develop downstream deep processing industries and create more employment opportunities in the future.

Guang and Changwei also shared their three-step strategy. Changwei said, in the first phase of the chilli contract farming project, China-Pakistan Agricultural Cooperation Pilot Zone is to be set up in five years, forming an industrial belt from areas around Faisalabad, Multan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Lahore.

The second step is processing. A chilli processing plant will be established in Pakistan within three years to extract chilli pigment and chilli essence, with an industrial output value of $200 million.

While in the third phase, a China-Pakistan food industrial park would be established in five to 10 years to help Pakistan boost processed chilli exports in days to come.

Guang said that chilli is only the beginning and they are to plant more crops such as garlic in Pakistan in the days to come, so as to form a complete industrial chain to deep process raw material close by.

“Many Chinese enjoy chilli sauce that is made of chilli, beans, garlic and so on, and it would be easier and economical to export deep-processed chilli products like bottled chilli sauce than raw material,” Guang added.

“As the Chinese technical researchers are involved in it we are sure the project has high prospects,” Dr Muhammad Azeem Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council told CEN, adding that the processed chilli will be exported from Pakistan, generating revenue from foreign markets and upgrading industrial structure in Pakistan.

As per the official statistics, Pakistan in FY 2019/20 exported 1,825 tonnes of chilli, worth Rs581.3 million, accounting for 63.6 per cent of its peak in FY 2016/17 of 5,905 tonnes worth Rs914.3 million for the last 19 fiscal years. Mostly Pakistan’s chilli and chilli products are exported to the Middle Eastern markets such as Saudi Arabia.
As China became the world’s leading chilli and pepper consuming country, there is ample room for Pakistan-China cooperation.

According to the statistics released by the general administration of the Customs of China, the country imported 49,800 tonnes of chilli worth $34.002 million in 2020. However, China did not import any chilli or chilli products from Pakistan in 2020. And for the last five years, China has only imported limited processed chilli products from Pakistan worth $4,099 in 2018/19.

Despite its low export volume, Pakistan’s chilli has been well received in China. On Daraz, the leading online marketplace in South Asia, it takes a person Rs398 to buy one red chilli powder weighing 110 grams. But when one searches for Pakistani chilli on JD.com, a Chinese e-commerce giant, one could find the same red chilli powder exported from Pakistan.

It costs RMB 33.6 (Rs820) to buy one in China, which is twice the original price in Pakistan. “This red chilli powder is incredible! For curry cooking, authentic spices count a lot,” a Chinese netizen posted a comment for it.

“At present, Pakistani pepper has a limited market share in China. But we are very confident that we can achieve a yield from hundreds of tonnes to tens of thousands of tonnes, as the Pakistan-China project on chilli succeeded!” Guang said and expressed his confidence in Pakistani chilli’s future market share in China.

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