ISLAMABAD: The government has directed relevant departments to speed up clearing imports of onions, tomatoes and potatoes at the Torkham border in order to bridge the supply and demand gap in the domestic market.
The import of vegetables has increased from Afghanistan over the last seven days despite heavy duties and taxes to contain the rising local prices.
Official documents show that price of the essential food items will further fall in the range of 15 per cent to 20pc in case government waives off duties and taxes.
The government collects 25pc regulatory duty, 17pc sales tax and 2pc income tax on import of potatoes; charges 17pc sales tax and 2pc income tax on import of onion, and 2pc income tax on import of tomatoes.
Customs Collector Appraisement Peshawar Muhammad Saleem told Dawn that the rise in import of vegetable was the outcome of several procedural measures. He said terminal authorities ie National Logistics Cell has been directed to ensure all vehicles containing vegetable consignments after entering import yard, are not allowed to be parked inside terminal after five hours of their entry.
He said that import vehicles have also been directed to record their status and mention whether they are in transit or home consumption.
The measures were taken following reports of delay in clearance of agriculture produce. Moreover, it was also observed that some trucks were parked to determine whether vegetables on the vehicles were bound for Pakistan or were in transit to India.
The shortage of the onion, tomatoes and potatoes in wholesale market has pushed up the prices of these items to as high as Rs100 per kg, Rs140 per kg and Rs80 per kg, respectively in some cities.
Afghanistan has produced surplus onion, potatoes and tomatoes, allowing Kabul to export these vegetables to Pakistan and India.
According to customs data, as many as 25 trucks loaded with potatoes have entered Pakistan between Oct 1-14. The total quantity of potatoes was declared at 1,212.196 tonnes.
The 924 cargo trucks carrying 34,324 tonnes of onions and 734 cargo trucks carrying 25,045 tonnes of tomatoes were cleared at the border stations between Oct 1-13.
On Wednesday, 127 cargo trucks full of tomatoes and three trucks of onions were also cleared at the Torkham border.
According to customs collector, there was no potato consignment on October 14. “All onion and tomatoes vehicles are cleared. No consignment is pending on customs side”, he said.
In the last 14 days, 177 cargo trucks of grapes were cleared at Torkham border.
The government recently moved the clearance post from the border area to Michani to facilitate clearance of imported goods. The tomatoes and onions are produced by small farmers. The production is on a seasonal basis. The biggest producer is Sindh, followed by Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Pakistan had been importing tomatoes and onions worth Rs17bn per annum until 2017. However, Pakistan was able to meet demand with local produce.
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2020