Pakistani wheat exporters have ganged up on one hand against allowing any land route passage to Indian food grains and on the other, taken umbrage to Kabul trying to get wheat from Iran and Tajikistan….writes Manzoor Ahmed
Pakistan has ‘punished’ landlocked Afghanistan for signing deals for wheat flour imports with India, Tajikistan and Iran by “temporarily suspending” its own supplies that traders had committed and contracted earlier.
Reports from Kabul and Peshawar say Afghanistan faced acute shortage of wheat flour, a staple for making bread and naan, during the holy Ramazan month and continues to suffer.
Pakistani wheat exporters have ganged up on one hand against allowing any land route passage to Indian food grains and on the other, taken umbrage to Kabul trying to get wheat from Iran and Tajikistan.
The Pakistani traders have told their government that they feel competed out because India, they allege, subsidizes its exports.
The export of flour from Pakistan to Afghanistan was suspended temporarily on July 12 after Afghan authorities increased custom duty on the commodity along with signing an agreement with India for import of wheat and flour, Dawn newspaper reported.
Custom officials and clearing agents at Torkham on the Pak-Afghan border said that flour exporters and dealers in Peshawar stopped export of the commodity to Afghanistan as they were asked to deposit additional amount as custom duty by the Afghan authorities.
Flour dealers said that they also ‘heard’ about an agreement between Afghanistan and India regarding supply of Indian flour by at subsidized rates.
Afghanistan has earlier signed an agreement with Tajikistan but Pakistani flour was better accepted there, they claimed.
The dealers said that as many as 70 trucks loaded with flour would cross over to Afghanistan via Torkham border on daily basis. “The export of flour has for the time being come to a halt,” they said.
Sadiq Shah, a Pakistani flour dealer, said that Pakistani flour had huge market in Afghanistan as it was considered best for bread baking in comparison to flour imported from Tajikistan which was mostly used in bakeries and confectionaries.’
This is spreading to other food items and commodities as well.
Mujeebur Rehman, a Pakistani custom clearing agent, said that apart from suspension of flour, export of milk and cream to Afghanistan had also been reduced as Iranian milk and cream were flooding markets in the neighbouring country.
He said that although import of fresh fruits including grapes and melons from Afghanistan was recently started, yet the quantity of the fruits was much lesser as compared to that of the previous year.
Mr Rehman said that only 40 to 45 trucks loaded with fresh fruits were coming to Pakistan on daily basis in comparison to near 150 loaded vehicles in a day during the previous year.
He said that import of soapstone and coal from Afghanistan had also declined considerably owing to border restrictions imposed by Pakistan government since June 1.
Besides causing hardship to the Afghans, this is affecting the overall Pak-Afghan trade worth $ two billion annually. It is estimated in Pakistan that the actual trade, much of it ‘informal’, meaning smuggling, is worth $ five to six billion.
While campaign against India and Indian goods is on, this dog-in-the-menger approach is causing problems within Pakistan. The flour dealers said that the suspension of export could cause them financial losses to the tune of millions of rupees.
There is glut of wheat flour in the Pakistani market, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the falling prices have troubled the local traders.
This has also generated a media debate. Many blame India for ‘dumping’, others ask why
It is the Pakistan foreign policy that compelled every neighbor to rethink about the relationship with Pakistan. If Pakistan can open doors to China why cannot Afghanistan do so with India. If situation continues as it is today, I am confident that Afghanistan would minimize its trade with Pakistan to nominal level, warned a Dawn reader.
No trade with Afghans, or with Iran, or with India. Then who are going to trade with, brother? You are surrounded by three hostile neighbours. Have you ever wondered why, asked another reader.
Without exports how are you going to pay your external debt?? Also, every country has right to make friends. Once Chahbar (which is to be developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan) is there then Afghanistan won’t need route for trade then what will Pakistan do, warned a third.