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Indian media’s false claim of suspending tomato export

By Jawwad Rizvi
February 23, 2019

LAHORE: Import of Indian tomatoes to Pakistan was stopped almost more than two years ago when the Pakistani government strictly implemented its photosynthesis regulations commonly known as quarantine rules as the Indian exporters suspended export due to quarantine issues reported in their produce.

The Indian media in war hysteria after Pulwama incident was making false claim of suspending of tomato exports to Pakistan. Pakistan was importing tomato and other vegetables from India mainly through Wagah-Attari border during the shortage of it in offseason. However, this offseason opportunity was converted into regular exports of Indian vegetables including tomato, potato, garlic, ginger, cauliflower and other seasonal vegetables which resulted in damaging Pakistani farmers’ income. The framers complained with the then government about violations of the photosynthesis regulations in import of perishable vegetables from India which not only was hitting the farmers’ income but also could be a continuous threat to Pakistan’s agriculture in shape of transfer of agriculture diseases to the country.

Mozam Raza, deputy collector Customs posted at Wagah while talking to The News confirmed that not a single consignment of tomatoes or any other vegetables had crossed the Wagah-Attari border after December 2016. Previously, some day 20 trucks and some day 30 to 35 trucks carrying vegetables majority of tomato consignments crossed the Wagah-Attari border.

“Only 8 to 10 trucks are crossing from Attari to Wagah nowadays after the Indian government slapped 200 percent duty on Pakistani products by withdrawing Most Favored Nation (MFN) status from Pakistan,” Mozam said, adding that not a single Pakistani consignment crossed Wagah border to Attari since then. Currently, cotton yarn and plastic chemical is being imported from India out of which almost 80 percent is cotton yarn imported by big industrial units, he added.

He mentioned that when he was in Customs anti-smuggling department, tomato was being smuggled from Chakhoti Sector where trade route is working for intra-Kashmir trade. However, the Custom was tipped off about smuggling of Indian tomato from Chakhoti Sector and Islamabad Customs intelligence also intercepted the activity. After successful raids by the anti-smuggling unit, it was also stopped, he further added. Some occasional activity of tomato smuggling was reported later, which was also controlled as the price was not viable for smuggled tomato to trade. An official of Customs anti-smuggling unit said the department increased its vigilance when the price of tomato increased in the country, especially in Lahore and other districts of Punjab as chances of arrival of smuggled tomato increased.