ISLAMABAD: The parliamentarians on Wednesday informed the National Assembly that the export of dates has declined sharply after India slapped a 200 per cent duty on Pakistan’s exports.
“It is an issue. The decline in exports of dry dates is directly linked to the Pulwama attack in February,” Parliamentary Secretary for Commerce Shandana Gulzar Khan said in response to a calling attention notice in the NA session.
The notice was raised by Dr Nafisa Shah along with other MNAs including Syed Javed Ali Shah Jillani, Shamim Ara Panhwar, Shagufta Jumani, and Shahida Rehmani.
Nafisa Shah said the trade barriers to export dates are a matter of concern and showed her disappointment with the incumbent government’s failure to increase exports.
“Has Pakistan reciprocated or banned Indian imports into Pakistan in response to the overnight barrier erected by Delhi? As the fifth or sixth largest exporter of dates in the world, has the present government sought alternate markets to sell dates since the Pulwama incident two months ago?” asked Nafisa Shah.
She said that if Pakistan did not use trade as leverage like India, around Rs8 billion worth of goods sitting in go-downs are likely to rot.
She was also curious as to why despite surplus local production; the government is importing dates from Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Responding to questions, Shandana Khan said that since the Pulwama attack, Indian importers, who now have to pay 200pc duty on importing dates from Pakistan, have stopped importing goods from the country.
“This has caused the annual $500 million dollar trade to shrink to $6m as of March. Conditions are unlikely to change until elections in India are completed,” she responded, adding that Indians consumed Pakistani dry dates as ‘prasad’ during their religious proceedings.
“We are currently negotiating with six different markets such as Morocco, France, Germany, the UK, USA, and Indonesia, which are the biggest buyers of dates,” said the Parliamentary Secretary.
Pakistan is not in a position to retaliate against India with respect to trade after the Pulwama attack especially in the absence of industrial policy for the last 11 years, Shandana Khan maintained.
“We are a failure because we have not done our homework successively. However, Pakistan has responded to increase on duties on imports into India with similar increases on Indian imports into Pakistan, a list of which can be shared with concerned members,” Shandana Khan informed the members.
In another question, the house was informed that in order to lessen trade deficit, Pakistan has reduced expenses on imports by $3.5bn after increasing duties on items purchased from abroad.
While most opposition members protested the move to reduce imports to settle trade deficit as bad for business, especially when exports have not increased, the government announced that expenses on imports will be cut by $5bn by June this year.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019