ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s exports to nine regional countries posted a paltry growth of 0.72 per cent in the first quarter (July to September) of 2022-23 from a year ago, the latest data released by the State Bank of Pakistan showed.

The country’s exports to Afghanistan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives account for a small amount of $953.113 million — just 13.27pc of Pakistan’s total global exports of $7.179bn in July-September.

China tops the list of Pakistan’s regional exports leaving other populous countries India and Bangladesh behind. Islamabad carried out trade with its farther neighbours Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Maldives via sea only.

Pakistan’s exports to China posted negative growth in the first quarter. The bulk of the regional exports share, which accounts for 52.56pc, is with China while the remaining is for eight countries.

Pakistan’s exports to China dipped 10.4pc to $501m in July-September from $559.17m in 3MFY22. The decrease in export proceeds was noted for the first time in the post-Covid period.

Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan posted a negative growth of 0.38pc to $127.157m in July-September from $127.647 m in July-September 2021. Till a few years ago, Afghanistan was the second major export destination for Pakistan after the United States. The export figures did not include proceeds that were materialised in the local currency.

The exports to Afghanistan started to decline in August 2021. The government has allowed maximum imports from Afghanistan in the rupee on a land route in the post-Taliban regime period. The figures did not reflect those imports made in rupees.

The government has also exempted the import of tomatoes and onions from duty and taxes. As a result, the import of these kitchen staples posted massive growth in the past couple of months to bridge the shortage in local supplies.

The country’s exports to India increased 1.98 pc to $0.101m in July-September this year from $0.099m in 3MFY22. In the wake of the monsoon rains, the standing crops of vegetables and cotton were vastly destroyed. There is a strong demand for allowing the import of cotton at the Wagah border and vegetables.

Pakistan’s exports to Iran on the official channel remained zero in FY22. Most of the trade with Tehran is carried out through informal channels in border areas of Balochistan. The government has allowed the import of onions and tomatoes at Taftan and Gwadar border customs stations to meet local demands.

Exports to Bangladesh increased 33.7pc to $234.504m in July-September from $175.388m in July-Sept 2021. Similarly, exports to Sri Lanka increased by 8.31pc to $87.755m in July-Sept from $81.017m in the same months last year.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s exports to Nepal declined by 31.98pc to $0.842m in July-September from $1.238m in 3MFY22. Exports to the Maldives increased by 4.84pc to $1.754m from $1.669m. No export to Bhutan was recorded in the first three months of the current fiscal year.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2022

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