ISLAMABAD / QUETTA: The federal government on Thursday opened the country’s border with Iran at Taftan to resume trade activities. The border will now remain open seven days a week.
With the development, the export of Pakistani mangoes to Iran is now set to resume.
Separately, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has announced a drastic cut in freight charges for export of mangoes to the United Kingdom and rest of Europe.
The Ministry of Interior took the decision on the opening of the border with Iran on the intervention of the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Agricultural Products which had warned that no delay would be tolerated in the opening of the border with Iran and trade facilitation.
The border was closed on March 17 after the coronavirus outbreak in Iran.
PIA announces drastic cut in freight charges for export of mangoes to Europe
The interior ministry informed the director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and the inspector general of Frontier Corps (South) about the decision on the opening of border with Iran from June 18.
“The competent authority has decided that the Taftan border shall remain open 7 days a week for trade only while ensuring proper SOPs and guidelines,” the notification issued by the ministry said.
According to Customs officials, presently only Iranian trucks carrying edible items and some other goods have been allowed to cross over into Pakistan.
A large number of containers loaded with mangoes have been waiting at the Taftan border for their turn to cross into Iran.
National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser, who heads the Special Committee on Agricultural Products, wrote a letter to the prime minister, urging him to take cognisance of the matter and issue directives for the ministries concerned to facilitate mango exporters.
Taking cognisance of various issues faced by mango exporters and farmers, the Special Committee on Agricultural Products summoned officials of the ministries of National Food Security and Research, interior and aviation.
Mr Qaiser was of the view that mango was a perishable commodity and procedural delays or logistic hurdles could cost a loss of millions of rupees to the national exchequer.
According to the speaker, the Pakistani mango is a delicacy throughout the world which also substantially contributes to the foreign exchange earnings of the country. He said that opening of the border and reduction of air freight would give a boost to the economy of the country affected by the coronavirus pandemic. He urged the exporters’ association to support PIA by lifting their cargo only through the national flag carrier.
The interior ministry’s notification on Thursday modified its orders of March 27 and April 13 regarding sealing of the western border. It has allowed opening of the Taftan border with Iran throughout the week for the purpose of trade subject to strict observance of guidelines and SOPs.
In the meantime, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment, Abdul Razzak Dawood has said that Iran will provide all possible facilitation for mango exports to Iran and Central Asia, and in this regard, Iranian Ambassador Syed Mohammad Ali Hosseini will stay in direct contact with the commerce ministry.
Mr Dawood, who held a meeting with the Iranian Ambassador in Islamabad on Thursday, said that the Iranian ministry of agriculture and the Department of Plant Protection in Pakistan have collaborated to recognise and allowed six more Pakistani companies to export mangos to Iran.
The Iranian Consulate in Quetta has confirmed that it will attest documents for at least 30 shipments of mango exports daily. Iranian trucks will take Pakistani mangoes to Iran from the border following SOPs for prevention of the spread of Covid-19.
The special committee in its previous meeting had recommended that the interior ministry should take appropriate and urgent trade-facilitative measures for opening and operation of Taftan border throughout the week during the mango season with extended timings to facilitate mango exports to Iran.
The committee in the previous meeting had also asked the Aviation Division to direct PIA to reduce freight charges for mango export to facilitate farmers and exporters. The minister for aviation had assured that PIA would be asked to reduce freight charges besides dedicating B-777 aircraft for the purpose.
The national flag carrier after discussing the issue with exporters and other stakeholders had decided to drastically reduce freight charges for mango export up to $2.5 per 500kg for the UK and Europe whereas $1 per 500kg for other export destinations.
Meanwhile, PIA announced one-third reduction in air cargo tariff to facilitate the export of mangoes.
A press release issued by the PIA spokesperson says that the decision has been taken after a series of talks between a PIA team led by CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik and delegations of All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association.
In order to jumpstart the export process early and to ensure that the produce is not impacted by the prevalent crisis, it has been decided by the PIA that effective immediately the air cargo tariff for exporting mangoes will be reduced by up to 30 per cent in different weight slots.
This will facilitate and ease off pressure on mango growers already suffering from a potentially devastating locust infestation and Covid-19 lockdowns or restrictions across the globe.
Published in Dawn, June 19th, 2020