ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s exports to nine regional countries shrank 11.93 per cent in the first half of FY23 mainly driven by a drop in shipments to China, data released by the State Bank of Pakistan showed on Monday.

The country’s exports to Afghanistan, China, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Iran, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives dipped to $1.897 billion — just 13.31pc of Pakistan’s total exports of $14.25bn in July-December FY23.

China tops the list of Pakistan’s regional exports leaving other populous countries India and Bangladesh behind. But Pakistan’s exports to China posted negative growth in the first half FY23 on a year-on-year basis. The bulk of the regional exports share, which accounts for 55.77pc, is with China while the remaining is for eight countries.

Pakistan’s exports to China declined 20.57pc to $1.058 in July-December FY23 from $1.332bn in 6MFY22. The decrease in export proceeds was noted for the first time in the post-Covid period. However, the imports from China increased during the period under review.

Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan posted a positive growth of 4.60pc to $251.58m in July-December from $240.50m in July-December 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 materialised through the land routes.

The exports to Afghanistan started to decline in August 2021. The government has allowed imports from Afghanistan in the rupee 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 from Afghanistan and Iran. As a result, the imports of these kitchen staples posted massive growth in the past couple of months to bridge the shortage in local supplies.

Pakistan’s exports to Iran on the official channel remained at $0.022m in the first half of FY23 against no exports last year. 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. Pakistan carried out barter trade with Iran.

The country’s exports to India declined 75pc to $0.126m in 1HFY23 from $0.517m in 6MFY22. 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 as well as vegetables at the Wagah border.

Exports to Bangladesh increased 5.35pc to $420.83m in 1HFY23 from $399.43m in 1HFY22. However, exports to Sri Lanka dipped by 8.01pc to $160.87m from $174.88m in the same period last year.

On the other hand, Pakistan’s exports to Nepal declined by 61.78pc to $1.54m from $4.03m in 6MFY22. Exports to the Maldives increased by 28.16pc to $4.05m from $3.16m. A marginal export worth $0.048m to Bhutan was recorded in the first six months of the current fiscal year against $0.018m exports last year, indicating a growth of 166pc.

Published in Dawn, January 31st, 2023

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