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LAHORE: Pakistan on Wednesday lifted an ‘undeclared’ ban on imports of ginned cotton from India, pledging to strictly implementing all phytosanitary and other conditions governing the fibre’s imports on future incoming shipments via surface or sea.

Earlier, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research put cotton imports from India on hold through Wahga and Karachi port from Nov 23, saying the shipments did not fulfil phytosanitary conditions.

However, traders at that time claimed that rising border tensions between the two neighbours had prompted Islamabad to impose the ban on Indian cotton.

A trader blames Food Minister Sikandar Bosan for creating hurdles

A trader told Dawn that the DPP had started issuing permits for importing cotton from India via Wahga.

But the DPP has also made it clear to importers that only the consignments free from cotton seeds will be accepted and allowed into the country, he added.

He said the department required production of phytosanitary certificate issued by authorities in the country of origin declaring that the consignments are free from pests and disease and were fumigated for 48 hours before loading.

“Besides, the importers are required to obtain import permit 14 days prior to the arrival of the cotton consignments,” he said.

Traders said none of these conditions is new. “But the fact remains that the department has never implemented or threatened to implement them to the letter ever like now,” a textile factory manager said.

“If implemented strictly, we will not be able to import cotton from any country in the world, let alone India, because no consignment is completely free from cotton seeds.”

Last year, Pakistan imported ginned cotton worth more than $800 million from India which accounted for two-thirds of India’s cotton exports.

Traders are expecting cotton imports from India and elsewhere to surge this year in view of the anticipated shortfall in the domestic crop.

The government expects cotton output to remain close to 10.5m bales of 170kg each against a reduced industry demand of 14m bales owing to widespread factory closures in Punjab because of higher energy prices.

A trader blamed Sikandar Bosan, the minister of National Food Security and Research, for creating hurdles in the way of import of Indian cotton. “He doesn’t realise that hurdles in imports from India will hurt textile exports and slow down economic growth.”

Last year, a drop of 27pc in domestic cotton output shaved 0.5pc off gross domestic product growth rate, according to the budget for the ongoing year. “Any delay in execution of the contracts with Indian cotton exporters will allow them an opportunity to raise their prices or cancel the deals,” the trader said. “That will not be beneficial for our industry or exports at a time when our crop output is falling far short of our requirement.”

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2016