Work is due to start on the first of a series of garment cities planned in Pakistan at the end of this month - more than six years after the country's government first mooted the idea.

The ground-breaking ceremony of the Karachi Garment City is set to take place in the last week of this month, according to the Federal Minister for Textiles, Rana Muhammad Farooq Saeed Khan.

Plans to establish three garment cities at Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad were first laid out in the government's trade policy of 2003-04.

The project is funded by the government of Pakistan, and has so far received PKR400m (US$4.7m) from the Export Development Fund.

Work to date has involved buying and clearing the land on which the garment city will be based: a 300 acre site at Ghaghar Phatak near Port Qasim, about 55 kms from Karachi. The first phase will involve the development of a 50 acre plot.

The aim is for the Karachi Garment City to be a cluster of over 500 sewing and stitching units grouped together to produce exports. Plots will be available for firms to set up their garment operations.

The facility is intended to produce about 6m dozen garments a year, generate around $200m in exports and provide around 30,000 jobs.

There will be units making knitted and woven garments, accessories (labels, sewing thread, zippers, buttons, cartons, plastic bags etc), warehouses (dyes, chemical, fabrics) and industrial laundering facilities.

The city will be run through joint stock companies with public-private sector partnership.

Work is also progressing on the Faisalabad and Lahore projects, while earlier this year the government said it was looking at setting up the country's largest garment city on a 500-acre site at Hyderabad.