Pakistan ‘stops’ import of Indian agricultural commodities

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Pakistani authorities “halted” the import of cotton and other agricultural commodities, including vegetables, from India via the Wagah border, it was reported on Saturday.

Am official from the Department of Plant Protection has said the move came due to escalating tensions between the two countries after Indian troops allegedly targeted a passenger bus and an ambulance near the Line of Control (LoC) and killed “three Pakistani soldiers and 10 civilians” on Wednesday, Dawn reported.

Cotton importers and customs clearing agents claimed that the department had stopped the import of agriculture commodities from India without a warning or written order citing increase in tensions across the LoC.

Sahabzada Imran Shami, director general of the DPP, a subordinate department of the national food security and research ministry, however, sought to dispel the impression.

“We have stopped the import of tomatoes and other fresh vegetables in order to protect our farmers. We have enough tomato and other vegetable stocks, which we import from India only in case of shortages in the domestic market,” he told Dawn.

The reason behind the “suspension” of cotton imports from India was, nevertheless, different. “No. We have not stopped cotton imports from India. It has just been halted over reports that the Indian exporters are not meeting our bio-security conditions,” Sahabzada Shami contended.

“We’re looking into these reports and will lift the restriction on cotton imports if our apprehensions are proved wrong.”

He said the suspension of cotton import from India would create a huge problem for the textile exporters as the truncated domestic crop target of 11.25 million bales for this year appeared difficult if not impossible to meet.

“The industry requires 14 mn bales. We will still be short by three million bales of cotton even if the crop target is achieved. The cotton shortages after ban on Indian imports,” he said, “would lead domestic prices to jack up at the expense of exports.”

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