ISLAMABAD: The Senate Standing Committee on Commerce suggested government to take effective measures to counter cheaper food imports as well as smuggling of fruits and vegetables from neighbouring countries.
The Senate Standing Committee on Commerce also recommended Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) to purchase fruits and vegetables from farmers of Baluchistan.
Passco was also suggested to fix minimum prices for fruits and vegetables produced in Balochistan analogous to the pattern adopted in other provinces.
The Senate Standing Committee convened a special session to discuss the issues raised by Senator Mir Kabir Ahmed Shahi who highlighted the issue of vegetables and fruits prices in Baluchistan in the wake of cheaper imports in August.
Senator Shahi while briefing the committee complained that the government has adopted policies which are directly and indirectly hurting Baloch farmers. He added that the government adopts an open border policy and allows imports of fruits and vegetables from India, Afghanistan and Iran during the seasonal arrivals of these produces.
He urged the government to impose restrictions on imports to help fruits and vegetables farmers in Balochistan.
Highlighting the unchecked smuggling of fruits and vegetables, the committee was told that 22 un-registered trucks loaded with fruits and vegetables were confiscated in Gujranwala with labels from Afghanistan.
Senator Shahi also informed the committee that approximately 1.2 million tonnes of apples were produced annually in Balochistan against the total requirement of 1m tonnes adding that the north eastern province also produces 0.3 m tonnes of grapes, 0.5m tonnes of onions and 0.5m tonnes of dates every year.
He said that despite sufficient local production, Iranian dates are being routinely smuggled into local market.
Senate Committee’s Chairman Shibli Faraz said the government will take every measure to support Baloch farmers adding that he would suggest government to establish cold storages in the province to overcome wastages.
Representatives of the commerce ministry informed the committee that a high level Afghan delegation visited Pakistan after the government banned imports from Afghanistan. He said that the delegation was informed that only fruits and vegetables produced in Afghanistan will be allowed in to the country.
The committee was briefed that Pakistan imports tomatoes worth $29.5m, onions worth $14m and apples worth $33m from Afghanistan and Iran. The committee was informed that imports of fruits and vegetables are subject to laboratory testing. However, Senator Shibli Faraz questioned the capacity and quality of Pakistani laboratories to accurately test the quality of fruits and vegetables at imports stage.
On the other hand, Pakistan also imported tomatoes worth Rs17bn from India last year but the government has banned its import in 2018, the committee was informed.
Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2018