KHYBER: Customs authorities at Torkham refused to clear trucks loaded with grapes on the pretext that those were not Afghan grapes, according to sources.

They said that fruit importers insisted that they possessed the certificate of origin of grapes issued by the Afghan authorities.

They said that at least 25 vehicles loaded with different varieties of grapes were stranded on Pakistan side of the border as Customs authorities said that those were imported from Central Asian Republics instead of Afghanistan.

Sources said that officials argued that grapes harvesting season had not yet started in Afghanistan.

Fruit dealers said that a similar number of vehicles loaded with Afghan grapes were stationed on the Afghan side of the border, awaiting clearance by Pakistani authorities.

Officials said that some importers of fresh fruits were involved in it as they were trying to avoid Customs duty imposed on fresh fruits imported from Central Asian Republics.

Sources said that officials were demanding the existing stock of arrived grapes to be cleared as imported from Tajikistan or Kirghizstan. But the transporters and local clearing agents were resisting it, they added.

On the other hand transporters and importers refuted these charges and insisted that they were in possession of original certificate of origin of the Afghan grapes they had acquired from Afghan authorities in Kabul.

They demanded of the officials to contact the Afghan authorities by email to establish the authenticity of the certificate.

Shah Jehan, a fruit dealer, said that the move would also affect export of some fresh fruits, especially banana, from Pakistan as Afghan authorities might refuse its clearance on the same pretext.

They alleged that some unseen elements were conspiring to damage the bilateral trade relations between the two neighbouring countries and inflict monetary losses on the local traders and transporters.

They demanded of the relevant officials to immediately contact Afghan authorities about the exact origin of the imported grapes and allow them to take the existing cargo to different destinations in Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2023

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