BEIJING, March 10 (APP)::Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the general demand for nutritious products and healthy food including organic foods has increased significantly worldwide, presenting enormous opportunities for farmers and companies to tap into.
Featuring minimum use of synthetic chemicals that may cause pollution and maximum reliance on biological methods, organic agriculture gains traction for its various advantages such as lowering environment pollution and land degradation, producing healthier food, reducing import of fertilisers and pesticides, etcetera.
In Pakistan, organic farming is still in its infancy stage with a very limited number of established organic farms. Statistics show that organic land only accounts for 0.2% of the total. Meanwhile, as a the second largest producer of organic products in Asia, China may offer some lessons to learn in this regard.
Ningxia Qinlaoren Agricultural Development Company Limited is a Chinese wolfberry producer based in the northwestern province Ningxia. Chinese wolfberry is a kind of fruit and a major tonic herb with high nutritional and medical values, and it is also a key brand product in the region. In the demonstration planting base for professional cultivation of green organic wolfberry, quality is strictly controlled from seedling to plant growth. Farm manure is used instead of fertilizer. For pest control, physical methods are adopted instead of chemical ones. The company’s products have been widely applied in healthcare and food businesses.
The organic babies’ snack brand GOOD GOUT China follows the same philosophy throughout its production cycle. “In our range of products for babies, for example, some fruit puree or yogurt, instead of adding preservatives, honey will be used as a raw material to give it the sweet taste. Raw materials with high fiber and protein will be used, and anthocyanins will be added to prevent oxidation”, said Offline Sales Manager Chen Qianying.
Amid the ubiquitous challenges posed by the pandemic, organic food sector is presented with rare opportunities. Data show that 70% of consumers choose to increase spending on nutrition products after the pandemic, and nearly 90% of consumers’ expenditure on nutrition products has increased by 10% – 20% compared with that in the past.
Previously, mainly the middle-aged and elderly people bought healthcare products, whereas now more buyers of the post-90s generation purchase nutrition and healthcare products, accounting for more than 25%. For different target groups, healthcare products become increasingly diverse.
“Pakistan also has natural endowments and resources, so it is very compatible with the development of health industry”, said Sun Jiangwei, Executive General Manager of BioGrowing (Shanghai), a company dedicated to probiotic businesses with products exported to 53 countries including Pakistan.
Since 2013, the healthcare products of his company have entered Pakistani market. In addition, Healthcare products from Pakistan made their appearance at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) 2020. “Pakistani enterprises can participate in more exhibitions to have more information exchange. “I believe healthcare products will have great market potential along the Belt and Road in the future”, he added.
Moreover, the traditional herbal medicine of Pakistan can also play some roles. Herbal plant products has been studied and developed by Sun and other Chinese counterparts, which has the potential to distinguish from traditional dairy products by providing not only “good taste”, but also “good nutrition”.
Organic products are often regarded as a high-end nitch market. In Pakistan, only few are organic farmers. The main reason lies in their premium price driven up by small, scattered production, which is a major factor constraining the popularity of organic food products. But Dr Farooq Khan believes that “if we do it on modern basis, as done by China and other countries, we will get better yield from organic farming, in turn, benefiting our economy.
So in my opinion, such training should be promoted.” In particular, if small-scale farmers are equipped with sufficient expertise, the potential of the small plots of land will be further unleashed, overcoming the bottleneck of conventional dispersed farming and packing. With the initiative of agricultural cooperation including the recently established China-Pakistan Agricultural and Industrial Cooperation Information Platform, Pak-China cooperation in agriculture is yet to make a big headway.
For more organic products to be recognized and welcomed in domestic, regional and international market, a home-grown certification organization that meets international standards should also be put in place to assess and label these natural products. According to experts, it will not only augment producers’ credibility and consumers’ confidence, but also hold the entire community accountable for environmental implication and food security.
When BioGrowing (Shanghai) entered the Pakistani market in 2013, the development of e-commerce platforms has been a tremendous boon. In Pakistan, a growing number of sellers are turning to online stores for direct marketing. The ongoing digital transformation accelerated by the pandemic will provide more solutions to organic practices and businesses, benefiting the entire agriculture sector.
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