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External trade hit by protests

Updated November 03, 2018

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Export shipments face delays due to transport hitches amid protests on Friday.
Export shipments face delays due to transport hitches amid protests on Friday.

KARACHI: Shipments of Christmas-related export orders suffered badly as a large number of consignments could not meet the shipping schedule of ships calling at Karachi Port and Port Qasim.

A strike call on Friday, as well as protests and blockades across the city at pivotal entry and exit points paralysed life. Over the past three days, export activities came to a halt since containers loaded with export orders worth millions of dollars could not reach the two ports.

“It takes 30 days for a ship to reach Europe and if we fail to deliver goods in time, these items will not be available for Christmas shopping and would be sold in post-Christmas sales at half the price,” said Patron-in-Chief Pakistan Leather Garments Exporters Association Fawad Ejaz Khan, talking to Dawn.

“This delay will result in a huge loss to our buyers. They are unlikely to place future orders with Pakistani exporters and will look for supply sources from other countries. At best, we have to ensure our goods should reach destinations by the first week of December if we want to keep our export market intact,” he stressed.

He said a container of his loaded with Christmas orders of leather garments could not catch the shipping schedule for which cut-off day was Friday.

“All roads approaching the two sea ports and airport were blocked. The sit-in at Star Gate made it impossible to airlift the shipment,” he said.

Talking to Dawn, Nasir Ahmed Sheikh said he came to Lahore from the UK with two buyers to place textile orders.

“However, we failed to visit the factory as the entire city was locked down. The manufacturer is expected to visit us at the hotel and show us samples. However, this has left a bad impression about Pakistan,” he said.

Chairman Pakistan Apparel Forum Jawed Bilwani said, “Ships calling at the ports had to leave without loading cargoes. Exporters will have to wait for the next ship which would not be available before a week.”

Container shortage will also affect exports, he said. “Daily there is a cycle of 8000TEUs (twenty feed equivalent unit) which come and leave the country on a daily basis,” he added.

Meanwhile, labour attendance was thin in industrial areas, forcing manufacturing activities to halt. Furthermore, many units faced shortage of raw materials

Markets, pumps closed

Major markets across the city continued to remain shut on Friday.

General Secretary All City Tajir Itehad Ahmed Shamsi said some retailers in small markets, particularly those located in residential areas, kept their shops open. “No panic buying of essential goods was observed,” he added.

Mr Shamsi said the three-day closure had badly hit daily-wagers and labour class, besides causing at least Rs30 billion losses to wholesale and retail trades.

President Falahahi Anjuman Wholesale Vegetable Market Super Highway Haji Shahjehan said some 30 per cent buyers came before Fajar prayers on Friday. “After 8am there was negligible footfall and little sale,” he added.

“Goods carriers for export cargoes could not load shipments. Besides, daily arrival of trucks carrying vegetables from up country in Sabzi Mandi also plunged by 70pc. There was no shortage of vegetable as demand remained flat,” he added.

Meanwhile, Karachi also witnessed closure of pumps in some areas.

Chairman Pakistan Petroleum Dealers Association Abdul Sami Khan said some 50pc retail outlets in the city were dry due to suspension in supply of petrol. “Pumps usually maintain four to five days of stocks but these cannot sustain further in case the supply remains suspended in future,” he said.

Pumps have underground fuel tank storage capacity of 20,000-50,000 each depending on the size of outlets, he added.

The association has requested Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) to resume CNG on Friday (which is a closed day of gas) so that people can have second fuel option available. However, SSGC did not pay any heed to the request, he claimed.

Corporate Communication Head Pakistan State Oil Imran Rana ruled out any drying of pumps and shortage of petrol and diesel at the company’s outlets in the country barring two sites in Islamabad which were closed due to security reasons.

Several markets remained closed in Lahore and other major cities of Punjab on Friday, with trade and business activities coming to a standstill as protests entered the third day.

“Though it was announced that protests would end on late Friday night, we still have no idea whether our association will announce opening the businesses on Saturday (today),” said Rahat Ali, a cloth merchant of Azam Market while talking to Dawn.

Published in Dawn, November 3rd, 2018

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