Karachi, US Agency for International Development USAID through USAID Firms Project is launching a pilot program to assist date farming and processing small and medium enterprises SMEs from Khairpur and Sukkur, which are Pakistan s chief date-producing districts, contributing to around 40 to 45% of country s date production.
Pakistan being 5th largest producer of dates in the world and having significant export prospect, it is not capitalizing on its potential and exporting just over 18% of total date production. Lack of awareness on best farming practices, improper fruit handling techniques, absence of developed processing facilities are major constraints inhibiting profitable date production.
USAID s pilot program aims to increase economic value of dates by mitigating these constraints and removing bottlenecks. Its design is geared to replicable, scalable, sustainable results, benefit 40 to 45 SMEs in date farming at Khairpur, Sukkur through provision of food-grade plastic crates, boom sprayers, date palm dryers. USAID is providing three SME date processors with equipment to detect physical contamination, food grade processing tables, small cold storage rooms, assistance for HACCP and ISO certification to address phytosanitary: food safety, quality requirements of international market.
Project is finalizing cost-share agreements with three date processing SMEs to include workforce training, infrastructure, technical assistance for quality certifications, support for international market linkages which is expected to result in at least 15% increase in sales and 10% increase in production for supported SMEs with up to 15% increase in jobs.
USAID plans to provide cost-share assistance to establish a commercial cold storage facility which will be first facility in Khairpur & Sukkur dedicated to dates. Based on program s design, partner SMEs project 10% increase in production, generating more than USD200,000 in incremental income, likely resulting in hundreds of new jobs.
Processing workers in thousands will receive training. Program accurately reflects sector and farmer needs, which will enable us to improve quality of product and fetch better price in market. said Hafiz Abdul Haleem Memon, date farm SME owner from Khairpur. With appropriate interventions, date sector offers substantial opportunities for exports, income, employment generation, economic growth for Pakistan.