So-called “mango diplomacy” between the United States and Pakistan has hit a snag as Pakistani producers say it has become too expensive to ship the fruit overseas.
Amid great fanfare, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced a plan in 2010 to help Pakistan export mangoes to the U.S., a measure aimed at boosting ties between the two countries and countering growing anti-American sentiment in the South Asian nation.
Pakistan exported its first mango consignment in 2011, but now growers say the increased costs associated with production and shipment have made exports to the United States unprofitable.
Pakistani Mango Growers Association President Zahid Hussain Gardezi told VOA’s Urdu Service Thursday that the mandatory processing of the fruit prior to its export, as well as high freight charges, have increased the cost to growers — discouraging export to American buyers.
Gardezi said, “this year the growers didn’t even try exporting the mangoes, because the exporters weren’t interested in reaching into their own pocket to sell mangoes to the United States. Who would want to do that?”
Pakistani mango producers point to certain regulations, such as the irradiation of fruit prior to shipping, as cost prohibitive.
The U.S. has been working to promote mango exports by partially funding processing facilities at Pakistani farms, and American officials say they are working to address the issue.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Arusha Rana denied that efforts to boost Pakistani mango exports to the U.S. have failed.
Rana told VOA’s Urdu Service, “the U.S. is working in agriculture here in Pakistan and we are not going anywhere. We are working with the producers, monitoring the production line, giving them training. The ‘mango diplomacy’ that Secretary Clinton talked about when she came here [to Islamabad] is absolutely still going on.”
The embassy spokeswoman says the United States has invested $4 million in mango farms in the Pakistani provinces of Sindh and Punjab and has trained 4,000 farmers. Rana said the efforts have helped Pakistan increase mango exports up to 60 percent.