Thursday November 30, 2023

Illegal import of fruit and vegetables affecting Balochistan farmers

October 18, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers from Balochistan on Wednesday requested the government to block the illegally import of fruits and vegetables from Afghanistan, Iran and India as it was affecting the local farmers especially in Balochistan.

In the backdrop of the smuggling of vegetables and fruits from these neighboring countries, the senate committee directed the authorities to control it and asked the Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation (Pasco) to procure these produce from the farmers in Balochistan and determine its minimum price.

The Senate Standing Committee on Commerce and Textiles Industry that met here with the Senator Shibli Faraz in the chair said that for the development and prosperity of Balochistan, taking concrete steps are very much necessary. Establishment of cold storages silos are necessary to save the agriculture produce from wastage.

Senator Mir Kabeer Ahmed Muhammad Shahi told the committee that when in Balochistan crops become ready for harvesting, then borders are opened and influx of fruits and vegetables come from India, Afghanistan and Iran and nobody then buy the local produce

Last year, on the recommendation of the Senate, the ban was imposed on its import that benefited the farmers, but now they are facing problem as the border is open now. He said that Indian products are being sold in Pakistan with Afghanistan label while from Iran too these items are coming. He said that the other day, 22 trucks of illegally imported fruit and vegetables were taken in custody in Gujranwala.

He further said that in Balochistan, 1.2 million tons of apples are produced while the country demand is one million. The province also produces 0.3 million tons of grapes, half a million tons of onions and same quantity of dates are produced, but despite that the Iranian dates are smuggled into Pakistan.

The committee was also told that smuggling of agricultural commodities from Afghanistan was also bringing diseases and affecting the local crops. An official told the committee that when Pakistan blocked import from Afghanistan then a delegation reached from Afghanistan and only those products were allowed which are produced in Afghanistan and have permits.

Tomatoes worth $25.6 million are being imported from Afghanistan while from Iran it is worth $4 million. Onions import from Afghanistan is of $13 million and from Iran it is of $1 million. Apples are imported of $25 million from Afghanistan and of $8 million from Iran.

Committee was also told that every item coming from abroad is being passed through laboratory test. As Afghanistan is a major trade partner, so we cannot put a unilateral ban on its products, official said.

Senator Nauman Wazir proposed that commercial importers should arrange dollars on their own, instead of relying on the State Bank of Pakistan. Secretary commerce said that regulatory duty (RD) has been levied on import of agriculture commodities. In 2016, Rs17 billion of tomatoes were imported from India, while in 2018, it was banned to benefit the local farmers.