By admin       2018-05-24

May 23, 2018 - KARACHI: Pakistan planned to import 20,000 tons of cotton from Afghanistan to somehow ease shortfall of the textile sector’s major input in the country where water shortage is dampening the crop outlook, officials said on Tuesday. Officials said the government is willing to import 20,000 tons of cotton stored in southern region of Afghanistan in sealed containers after matching the crop with sanitary and phytosanitary standards. “A team of Department of Plant Protection and Ministry of National Food Security and Research would visit Afghanistan for pest risk analysis,” an official said. A report, submitted to the cabinet, said cotton production faced virtual stagnation since 1991/92, fluctuating in the range of 10 to 12 million bales. In 2015/16, the cotton output dropped below 10 million bales, standing at 9.9 million bales. Pakistan’s annual consumption needs are estimated at 15 million bales. Previously, Afghan ministry of commerce sought an access to Pakistan’s market for its cotton. Officials said the landlocked country wants to use Torkham and Chaman border points to save cost and time for Afghan exporters as well as local importers. Currently, Pakistan Plant Quarantine Act 1976 and Plant Quarantine Rules 1967 authorises import of cotton through Karachi port only. An official said Afghan commerce ministry has agreed to share information on cotton production with Pakistan. Officials said government has already initiated a pre-consultative process with the relevant stakeholders, including, ministry of national food security, customs department and cotton associations. An official said Torkham and Chaman stations are known as primary source of influx of smuggled goods from Afghanistan and Customs authorities as well as border security agencies had sealed the points time and again. Goods transported under Afghan transit trade agreement find their way back into Pakistan through Torkham and Chaman borders, escaping duty and taxes. Government has put a halt to cotton imports during crop harvest in an effort to ensure that farmers get an attractive price and are encouraged to plant more in the next season as cotton production has dropped sharply over the past four years. Previously, the government allowed duty-free import of cotton on the persistent demand from textile millers, but that hurt the interest of Pakistan’s growers and benefitted Indian farmers who exported a significant quantity of cotton. Last year, Pakistan allowed resumption of cotton imports from India which used to export 0.5 to 2.8 million bales to the former in the past. Trade volume between Pakistan and Afghanistan stood at $1.62 billion in the fiscal 2016/17, of which Pakistan’s export to Afghanistan remained $1.28 billion and the value of imports from Afghanistan to Pakistan was $337 million.

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