Pakistan’s food processing and beverages sector has massive export potential

The food processing and beverages industry in Pakistan is considered one of the most promising sectors and is termed the second largest industry following the textile industry.

With huge prospects and resources, the true potential of this sector in Pakistan still remains untapped. Blessed with abundant agricultural resources, Pakistan has huge prospects to develop its food processing industry if it capitalises on the diversity of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Muhammad Umar Omerson, the spokesperson for Pakistan Food Association, told WealthPK that amidst expanding urbanisation during recent years, sales of packaged foods and beverages have surged significantly in the country, and an increasing number of restaurants, fast-food chains, and food delivery apps have provided multiple options for consumers, resulting in strong growth of the industry.

“With increasing urbanisation and exposure to global trends, spending patterns are also transforming in Pakistan, and during the last few years, the hotel and restaurant sector topped the list of higher spending,” Umar said. He said the fast food and food-related businesses have contributed 27% to the value-added output and generated 19% of employment opportunities.

Umar said the frozen food market is also growing in Pakistan, and it is worth Rs489.51 million, mainly due to the convenience and facilities it offers. Processed food items are getting edge on traditional foods with higher value-added products, such as frozen ready-to-cook/fully cooked food, healthier snacks, dressing and sauces, processed meat and poultry. 

Waheed Ahmed, a senior office bearer of All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association, told WealthPK that the food sector is suffering from the absence of processing facilities, the shortage of skilled workers and the lack of innovative technology. He pointed out that 30% fruit and vegetables are wasted due to negligence and the lack of processing facilities, which poses a major challenge to the food industry.

The socio-economic transformation has given rise to the consumption of processed food in the country, and a growing number of international and domestic chains of cash and carry stores have further boosted the market of processed food and beverages.  According to Pakistan Export Strategy 2023-27 for Processed Food and Beverages, Pakistan’s export earnings from the processed food and beverages industry have been limited and volatile, only amounting to $574 million in 2021-22. The industry’s international sales are concentrated in a relatively limited number of products, including spices, confectionery, cakes and biscuits, and prepared fruits and vegetables.