KHYBER: Import of all edibles, especially fresh fruits and vegetables from Afghanistan, was suspended on Monday as customs officials asked importers to produce the Plant Protection Quarantine Certificate (PPQC) for customs clearance on the Pakistani side of the border here.
The PPQC condition caused a sudden halt to all vehicles carrying fresh fruits and vegetables on the Afghan side of the border as none of them had the required certification from the Afghan interim government.
Customs clearing agents had heated exchanges with Pakistani customs officials complaining they didn’t get any prior notice about the production of the PPQC.
However, customs officials insisted that the rule was imposed a few years ago over the import of raw cotton from Afghanistan.
Customs officials ask importers to produce quarantine certificate
Enraged importers of fresh fruit and vegetables and customs clearing agents also held a protest demonstration and briefly blocked the Customs Road leading to the border point.
The issue wasn’t unresolved until night with transporters and importers waiting anxiously for a positive response from authorities in Islamabad.
Customs officials at Torkham said there was no quarantine or spray facility for edibles, especially vegetables and fruits imported from Afghanistan, but they were given stern directives from their officials in Islamabad to strictly implement the PPQC condition while refusing customs clearance of such imports if the condition was not fulfilled.
They said the food security ministry had written letters to all departments who had their presence at the border crossing with Afghanistan to ensure implementation of the PPQC in order to safeguard our own orchards and fruits and vegetable from getting any type of infection from infected edibles brought from Afghanistan without any proper spray and quarantine.
“The implementation of PPQC requires specialised staff for spray and quarantine along with enough open space where fresh fruits and vegetables can be treated against any infection or plant disease but unfortunately, we do not have such facilities at any of our border with Afghanistan,” a customs official said requesting anonymity.
The officials said they, too, were aware of the perils related to the sudden implementation of the PPQC and additional miseries confronted by the local importers, transporters and customs clearing agents but they were bound by the law to follow official orders, which were issued to customs, FIA, FBR, finance ministry and border security officials regarding strict implementation of PPQC.
Local importers said over 50 trucks and containers laden with fresh fruits and vegetables had got stuck on the Afghan side of the border due to the refusal of their customs clearance by Pakistani authorities.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023