As mango farmers improve conditions for their crops, workers lives improve too

Karim has learned to protect the fruit from fruit flies

Karim is a seasonal worker in Multan, in the Punjab province of Pakistan. That means typically he finds work for six months a year: harvesting, processing and packaging mangoes and Kinnow - a type of mandarin.

In the past, Karim mainly harvested fruit without proper equipment. The work was strenuous, the conditions harsh. In each farm there was a small shed, the station where Karim had to pack the mangoes in large, heavy wooden boxes for their onward transportation.

Then, through the TRTA support project, the farmers were introduced to good farming, harvesting and post-farming practices. And the lives of workers like Karim were transformed too. Now he is given ladders, cutters, and smaller baskets. Thanks to the introduction of a Code of Good Practice, harmful chemical pesticides have been replaced with biological alternatives, good for the health of workers like Karim who used to apply the pesticides.

Instead of having to pack the mangoes in big boxes in rudimentary sheds, they are now transported to modern packing houses, where packing lines that meet the requirements of international markets do much of the “heavy lifting”. They also boast amenities for the workers such as changing rooms, toilets and a space where they receive food from the farmers.

All this works for the farmers too, because yields and the value of their produce are up. Prior to reaching the pack house, the mangoes are now treated on the farm in a small-scale hot water treatment facility. This minimizes fruit fly infestations – making it easier for the mangoes to access international markets- and increases the shelf life of the fruit.

From farm to pack house, the mangoes now travel in 20kg stackable plastic crates instead of the earlier big wooden crates in which the fruit easily got bruised. In the pack house they are transferred to the cardboard boxes that will protect them for the rest of their journey. Through this improved packaging, wastage levels have dropped from 40% of the fruit to 15%.

Not only do they have less wastage, but the percentage of “A” grade mangoes is also up. These days, the proportion of the fruit fit for export has risen from 40% to 60%.

Increased exports have been further facilitated by encouraging the farmers to form an export consortium; in 2013 this was able to export for the first time directly to international high-end markets. First orders were received from ASDA, an international retailer in the UK and Walmart subsidiary. Exports to Malaysia have taken off too. In 2014, the consortium conquered additional new markets in the UK, Canada and Singapore.

All this has brought one more benefit for Karim and his colleagues: given increased yields and the need for greater attention to packaging, Karim is now working almost 8 months a year, earning approximately 25% more than he used to.

Once the good practices have been introduced throughout Punjab province, it is estimated that at least 10,000 worker families, or about 53,000 people, will benefit from such substantial income increase and better social working conditions.

Fact Box

The objective of the EU-funded Trade-Related Technical Assistance Programme (TRTA) is to support sustainable development and poverty reduction in Pakistan by promoting economic integration and stimulating decent employment opportunities though increased exports.

Contributions and Aim:
The budget is €12.5 million for a period of November 2009 to May 2016.
The TRTA- II programme has three complementary components

- Component 1 is building capacity within the MoC to formulate trade policies and to participate proactively in trade negotiations.

- Component 2 is strengthening the quality and conformity of products with international standards and compliance requirements, with a particular focus on selected exports (fisheries, horticulture and industrial products).

- Component 3: is working to strengthen the Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) regime in Pakistan and improve the protection of IPRs, thereby enhancing the business and investment climate in the country.

Through these components the project will also contribute to poverty reduction, gender equality, improved governance and social, environmental and work standards.

“I’ve known people to have really hurt themselves before. Then they’re out of work. We don’t have to worry about that now.”

Karim farmer, Multan

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