ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s exports to regional countries declined 22 per cent in the first eight months of the current fiscal year due to the impact of Covid-19.
Exports to Afghanistan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives fell to $1.171 billion in 8MFY21, from $1.504bn the previous year, according to the latest data compiled by the State Bank of Pakistan.
On the other hand, the country’s trade deficit with the region narrowed slightly during the period under review as imports from these countries also dipped.
Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan fell 13.6pc to $629.324m in 8MFY21 from $728.315m in 8MFY20. A few years ago, Afghanistan was the second major export destination after the United States.
The imports from Afghanistan have seen visible improvement especially of essential kitchen items — tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and fresh and dry fruits.
Pakistan’s exports to China also dipped by 1.61pc to $1.160bn in 8MFY21 from $1.179bn in 8MFY20. The decline in export proceeds was noted even though the Ministry of Commerce claims to have brokered preferential market access for local products under the second phase of the free trade agreement with Beijing.
The country’s exports to India plunged 89pc to $2.085m this year from $19.738m in 8MFY20. Exports to India plunged by a whopping 90.8pc to $28.644m in whole FY20 from $311.958m over FY19. The government suspended trade relations with New Delhi last year.
But it has allowed imports of raw materials for pharmaceuticals. The government is also considering allowing import of cotton yarn through land route from India to bridge the shortfall in local production.
The exports to Iran jumped 247pc to $0.191m in 8MFY21 from $0.055m in 8MFY20. Most of the trade with Tehran is carried out through informal channels in border areas of Balochistan.
Exports to Bangladesh decreased 26.65pc to $375.582m in 8MFY21 from $512.089m. Islamabad has recently reached out to Dhaka to revive talks to facilitate trade between the two countries.
Similarly, exports to Sri Lanka dipped by 28.56pc to $156.252m in 8MFY21from $218.726m in the previous year. Islamabad has signed the first-ever FTA with Colombo but trade between the two countries remains far behind its true potential.
In the recent visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Sri Lanka both countries agreed to exploit the available potential of bilateral trade.
On the other hand, exports to Nepal plunged by 85pc to $2.852m in 8MFY21 from $19.172m the previous year while those to the Maldives dipped by 39.95pc to $3.504m from $4.904m. The export proceeds to Bhutan was recorded at $0.043m in 8MFY21 as against $0.094m over the last year.
Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2021