Government urged to open Wagah to trade

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CARACHI:

Regional trade not only offers the promise of economic growth, but also acts as a cushion against climate disasters.

Pakistani businessmen, affected by the recent flash floods, have urged the government to open trade with India through the Wagah border. The corridor is one of the most effective trade routes to help alleviate food insecurity and the economic crisis that is currently developing.

Businessmen Group (BMG) Chairman Zubair Motiwala and Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Chairman Muhammad Idrees have called on the government to “immediately allow the import of raw cotton and foodstuffs , including vegetables, fruits, grains and other essentials, from India to the Wagah border as Pakistan faces severe shortages caused by devastating floods.

The BMG Chairman pointed out that “apart from the devastation caused and losses amounting to billions of rupees, a food crisis has also been triggered as agricultural crops, land and livestock have been damaged and remain inundated.”

“Raw cotton, dates, chillies, cauliflower, onions and other fruits and vegetables from Sind and Balochistan have been destroyed. Therefore, it has become inevitable to open the Wagah border and allow imports of agricultural products from India to meet the food needs of our country. This provides us with the fastest supplies at competitive rates from our neighboring country,” he added.

Talk to the express grandstandSaqib Hussain, senior equity analyst at Alpha Capital, said that “due to shortages, food inflation was around 5% in the last two months, but due to the influx of vegetables from ‘Afghanistan, prices have fallen’.

“If the government allows new imports, it will dampen our outlook for inflation going forward,” he added. “Additionally, Pakistan can import cotton from its neighboring country because we lack cotton, which is a basic raw material for the export-oriented textile industry. We have lost 20% of our cotton crop, so we may have to import 6 million bales of cotton. Textile companies are under pressure from order completion and we are concerned that our companies will lose some orders and this impact will be felt in the results of the next quarter,” Saqib explained.

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KCCI Chairman Idrees stressed that “the government must act quickly and wisely in this regard to avoid a serious food crisis. An estimated 65% of Pakistan’s major food crops, including 80% of wheat, rice and raw cotton, were completely washed away by the floods. In addition, over three million head of cattle also died.

“Given this scenario, the wisest decision would be to import these products from India with lower logistics costs and times than other countries,” he suggested.

Pakistan Businesses Forum (PBF) CEO Ahmad Jawad said: “Indian agricultural products can also be sourced from Dubai to improve the supply situation in the domestic market, in case Islamabad does not allow direct trade. with India.”

“However, this is not a profitable option,” he warned. “A better alternative is to import these products directly through the Wagah border, to save time and money,” Jawad explained.

AKD Securities CEO Farid Alam also agreed to this proposal. “India is a big producer of vegetables and they are also profitable. In addition, the freight cost is always the lowest in the regional trade. However, the government must be careful in estimating import demand and must ensure that imported stocks are used only to manage gaps between supply and demand.

Stressing that the steep rise in the price of vegetables and other staples made them unaffordable for the common man, Idrees stressed that “the government must immediately allow agricultural imports from India so that prices can stabilize and save people from hunger and starvation. .”

Published in The Express Tribune, September 16e2022.

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