ISLAMABAD: The commerce ministry has tasked trade and investment officers posted abroad to explore potential markets for food imports to avoid possible shortages in the domestic market in the wake of coronavirus outbreak in the country.
In a meeting with the representatives of the Federaion of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and regional commerce chambers, the ministry shared the details on the measures taken by government to proactively engage and solve the problems faced by trade and industry during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) notified exemption of two per cent withholding tax on import of pulses, additional customs duty of 2pc on import of edible oil and seeds. To improve the supply of essential food items to the Utility Stores Corporation, the withholding tax on supply of essential items including tea, spices, salt, dry milk, sugar, pulses, wheat flour and ghee was also reduced to 1.5pc.
The exemption in duty on imports and lower taxes on supply will be in effect until June.
In this regard, four meetings have already been held so far until April 8 in which various concerns and demands were raised from the industry representatives who government support to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on domestic commerce and exports industries.
An official announcement issued by the FBR said the commerce ministry has also asked trade officers abroad to ensure that export orders of the local Pakistani manufacturers are not cancelled.
On the request of importers for extension in maturity of letter of credit (LC), the ministry said the issue has been taken up with the State Bank of Pakistan.
In addition, officials said the commerce ministry had already released the due payment of Drawback of Local Taxes and Levies (DLTL) up to March. The ministry claimed that there are currently no pending drawback payments under this head.
Trade and industries representatives also informed officials of the issues faced by business community including cash flow, mark up on loans and maturity of LCs, sales tax refunds, payment of Duty Drawback and DLTL and urged the government to defer payment of gas and electricity bills of industries, allow confirmed export orders to be dispatched, allowing movement of workers of the three critical sectors i.e. food, pharmaceuticals and energy, find alternative markets for food imports and share standard operating procedures for export-oriented sectors to resume operations.
The participants were assured that the problems will be raised during the meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre of the National Coordination Committee.
Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2020