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Wednesday July 06, 2022

SHC orders disinfection of soya bean consignment at Port Qasim

May 17, 2022

The Sindh High Court (SHC) has set aside the department of plant protection’s (DPP) order with regard to confiscation of 55,636.55 metric tonne consignment of soya bean and directed the department to take action for disinfestation of the consignment through appropriate treatment.

The high court ordered that the consignment shall be inspected again by the plant protection department and if it fulfilled the requirements of the Pakistan Plant Quarantine Rules 2019 (PPQR), an authorised officer shall release the consignment in accordance with law. The direction came on the lawsuit of soya bean importers against the DPP order with regard to confiscation or destruction of the soya bean consignment after having found it infested or infected with pest and exceeding the permissible limits of aflatoxin.

The importers had submitted that they imported a consignment of 55,636.55 metric tonnes of soya bean which arrived at Port Qasim from Brazil on March 19 and such soya bean was intended for extraction of oil for human consumption and the left over bean was intended to be used as animal feed.

They submitted that the consignment had been imported under a valid import permit issued by the DPP and was accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate issued by the Plant Protection Organisation, Brazil.

A counsel for the plaintiffs submitted that the pests mentioned in the laboratory reports were not quarantine pests as those were not included in the schedules I and II of the PPQR and as per the data, the pest hypera postica, and the pathogen pseudomonas spp were already present in Pakistan.

The counsel said that the pathogen Rhizophus spp was a common mould and air-borne fungus found everywhere. He said that as per a study published by the Zoological Society of Pakistan, the pest anthicus cervinus was also not alien to Pakistan and the said pests could be treated or disinfected by fumigating the consignment with methyl bromide which was the course prescribed by the DPP itself.

The DPP quarantine deputy director submitted that the pest anthicus cervinus found in the consignment was a quarantine pest requiring confiscation and destruction, or deportation of the consignment.

A single bench of the high court headed by Justice Adnan Iqbal Chaudhry after hearing the arguments of the counsel observed that the fact of the matter remained that the pest anthicus cervinus was not mentioned amongst the plant pests presently covered by the schedules I and II of the PPQR, nor did the officers of the DPP bring on record the list of quarantine pests that were required to be maintained by the Plant Protection Advisor under the Rule 97(b)(xxi) of the PPQR to show that anthicus cervinus was a quarantine pest.

The SHC observed that the plaintiffs had prima facie established that anthicus cervinus was at best a regulated non-quarantine pest that did not in the first instance attract confiscation and destruction, or deportation of the consignment under the Rule 46 of the PPQR, but attracted the Rule 47 for steps to disinfest or disinfect the consignment.

The high court observed that as per reports, the aflatoxin level in the consignment appeared to be within the admissible limits and there was nothing to show that the pests detected in the consignment were quarantine pests, and hence the plaintiffs had made out a case for injunction.

The bench observed that since the infestation may have multiplied since the goods were last inspected, a concern expressed by officers of the DPP at the hearing was allowed.

The high court set aside the DPP order with regard to confiscation of the consignment but directed an authorised officer to take action under the Rule 47 read with the Rule 98(6) of the PPQR for disinfestation or disinfection of the subject soya bean consignment by appropriate treatment, including but not limited to fumigation by methyl bromide. The SHC ordered that the consignment shall be inspected again by the DPP and if it fulfilled the requirements of the Rule 54 of the PPQR, the officer shall release the consignment in accordance with the law.

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