Exporters fear losses as Chaman border closed for trade

Published July 16, 2021
In this file photo, paramilitary soldiers stand by the closed Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman. — Reuters
In this file photo, paramilitary soldiers stand by the closed Friendship Gate crossing point at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman. — Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Export containers have been piling up at Chaman border stations since July 14 in the wake of government’s decision of indefinite closure of Friendship Gate for all commercial activities and pedestrian traffic.

More than 110 vehicles carrying export goods were stuck at the border-crossing with Afghanistan in Chaman district of Balochistan, a senior customs officer from Quetta told Dawn on Thursday.

Pakistan’s main trading entry points with Afghanistan are Torkham in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Chaman in Balochistan. These points are also used for Afghan transit cargoes as well.

The decision to close border stations came when Taliban said that they had captured areas near Bab-i-Dosti Gate across the border with Chaman as US forces pull out from Afghanistan.

Trucks loaded with perishable goods, transit cargo stranded at Bab-i-Dosti

The customs officer said that on average 55 trucks carrying exports goods cross the Friendship Gate in Chaman on a daily basis. The imports from Afghanistan via Chaman border are 10 vehicles per day, he said, adding since Wednesday all trucks have been stuck with export goods.

Contrary to this, the border crossing with Afghanistan in Torkham is still open for exports and imports. However, the border is closed for pedestrian traffic owing to rising cases of Covid-19.

Data compiled by Pakistan Customs showed that major trade at the Chaman border stations is of perishable products. The major export products are rice, mangoes, etc while imports include dried fruit, fresh fruits, scrap and agriculture herbs.

Pakistan’s exports value in June at Chaman border stations was recorded at Rs2.210bn while import value stood at Rs1.084bn.

The delay will lead to a drop in total exports to Afghanistan, the customs officer said, adding there are chances of losses for exporters as well in case of long closure of the border station will lead to damages to perishable products.

Afghanistan also imports cargoes under the transit trade agreement which is transported to border stations in Chaman and Torkham. The closure of border stations will lead to piling up of Afghan cargo at Chaman stations as well as Karachi ports.

On an average daily 80 trucks carrying transit cargo cross into Afghanistan through Chaman crossing. The last two-day closure led to piling up of over 150 vehicles at the border stations.

A Peshawar-based Customs Collector Mohammad Saleem confirmed to Dawn that Torkham customs station is open for clearance of exports and imports. He said around 180 trucks carrying export goods cross into Afghanistan on a daily basis through Torkkham border while 80 trucks enter into Pakistan with imported goods.

Mr Saleem said that on average 70-80 trucks transport cement and other products including fresh fruits including mangoes and vegetables. He said the 100-120 trucks on a daily basis also transport Afghan cargo via Torkham as well.

Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan posted growth of 8.29pc to $895.380m in 11MFY21 from $826.802m in 11MFY20. A few years ago, Afghanistan was the second major export destination after the United States.

The imports from Afghanistan have also seen visible improvement especially of essential kitchen items — tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and fresh and dried fruit.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2021

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