KARACHI: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood said on Saturday that exports would increase to $27 billion in this financial year.

“This year, we will achieve the target of highest exports in the history of the country,” he said while speaking at the Pakistan Edible Oil Conference held at a hotel in Karachi. The target he set was $27bn exports by year end. In latest data released by the State Bank, total exports came in at $11.5bn in the first half of the fiscal year, meaning another $15.5bn will have to come in the remaining months of the fiscal year to reach this target. Export growth has remained sluggish thus far, despite a massive devaluation of the currency.

“The country’s economy is heading for improvement amid difficulties. This year will see more good news,” he added.

He said one of the biggest challenges for the country was current account deficit and the government was taking emergency steps to resolve the issue. Reducing imports will be vital to this he added. The business community and the government should join hands to overcome the problem.

Mr Dawood said the government was formulating a strategy to increase exports to $27bn this year, adding that the figures for December 2018 were much better as compared to those for the previous December.

“We have acquired a one-billion-dollar market in China for export of tea and rice,” he claimed.

While admitting that enough attention had not been given to edible oils, the adviser said that precious foreign exchange could be saved if production of such oils could be indigenized.

“The country cannot afford to import edible oils worth $4bn. By next month, the government will make a policy for promoting local production of edible oils,” he said.

Mr Dawood was of the view that the country has suffered greatly owing to lack of good research institutions. As a result, the yields in the agriculture sector were still far from being adequate.

The country’s cotton production has plunged to 10.5m bales from 15m bales due to low quality of seed. As a consequence, Pakistan is now importing raw cotton.

A high-level Malaysian delegation headed by Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar bin Mohd Akin, the deputy minister for primary industries, and comprising several senior officials also attended the Pakistan Edible Oil Conference.

Before attending the conference, Datuk Seri told a press conference that over the years bilateral trade in oils and fats had expanded to products like oleo-chemicals, palm kernel expeller, cooking oil, confectionary fats and many other products being used by the food and non-food industries in Pakistan.

As of November 2018, Malaysian palm oil exports to Pakistan exceeded the volume exported in 2017 and stood at 1.06 million tonnes, he said. The value of Malaysian palm oil exported to Pakistan by end of November 2018 was about $650m.

He said that Pakistan’s oil and fat market had grown significantly, from 2.7m tonnes in 2000 to over 4.4m tonnes in 2017. The market had almost doubled over this period and palm oil alone accounted for more than 50 per cent of this total.

In 2017, Pakistan accounted for 6.1 per cent of the total Malaysian palm oil exports and was the third largest importer of the oil, he said.

However, the oil and fat industry was now facing tough challenges despite the continued strong growth in demand, he added.

Published in Dawn, January 20th, 2019