EXPORTS TO INDIA SHOWING QUANTUM LEAP

The bilateral trade between Pakistan and India is likely to surpass one billion dollars mark in the current financial year

From KHALID BUTT, Lahore
Jan 23 - 29, 2006

Pakistan's exports to India have surged by 60 million dollars in five months of this fiscal year because of liberalization of trade between the two archrival countries, it is learnt.

During July-November 2005-06 the country's exports to India edged up to 100 million dollars as against 40 million dollars in the corresponding period of last fiscal year, revealed the details obtained by PAGE.

Major increase had been reported in the exports of vegetables, dried shell which stood at 33.07 million dollars during July-November period of this fiscal as against 1.96 million dollars during the same period last fiscal.

The export of oil from petrol and bituminous mineral also indicated impressive increase, to 22.70 million dollars in five months of the current fiscal, whereas in the same period last fiscal this category fetched only 7.82 million dollars.

Meanwhile, the textile items like cotton yarn, woven cotton fabrics, wool, made-ups and textile products also attracted more than 20 million dollars through exports to the neighbouring country.

According to details, Pakistan's traditional exports to India in this fiscal were fruits/vegetable, spices, hides, skins, wool, crude vegetable materials, chemical elements, leather, cotton yarn, fabrics, knitted/crocheted fabrics, made-up textile articles, glass, pearls, precious stones, machinery/parts, plastic articles, etc.

Pertinent to note is that in fiscal year 2004-05, for the first time the bilateral trade of the two countries had expanded to 835 million dollars, showing an increase of 359 million dollars when compared to its preceding fiscal year 2003-04. The country, however, had sustained a huge deficit of 259.32 million dollars in bilateral trade with India in last fiscal year.

In 2004-05 Pakistan had exported 288.13 million dollars worth of different items to India and imported goods valuing 547.45 million dollars from the said neighboring country.

Bilateral trade between the two countries suffered a big blow in December 2001, when the neighboring country suspended Samjhota Express and Dosti Bus Service while blaming Pakistan for terrorist attack on Indian Parliament.

Pakistan strongly denied the allegation and acted appropriately by suspending trade with India through rail and road link that had embarrassed the Indians.

The two countries, however, did not suspend their bilateral trade through sea.

Official sources have expressed the opinion that the bilateral trade of Pakistan and India would surpass one billion dollars mark in the current financial year because of impressive increase in exports and government's recent decision of importing animals and vegetables from India. They further said that trade liberalization would discourage smuggling of different items between Pakistan and India.

AGRICULTURE TO UPLIFT ECONOMY

Provincial Minister for Agriculture Marketing Mohammed Qasim Noon has said that agricultural economy needs to be strengthened to keep the wheel of the country moving and the Chief Minister Chaudhary Pervaiz Elahi has taken a revolutionary step by establishing Punjab Agri Marketing Company (PAMCO).

The Provincial Minister was speaking at LCCI recently. LCCI President Mian Shafqat Ali, Senior Vice President Abdul Basit, Vice President Aftab Ahmad Vohra, the Chief Executive Officer of PAMCO Mansoor Arfeen and Special Secretary to Government of Punjab Mohammed Yousaf also spoke on the occasion.

Qasim Noon said that lack of farm-to-market roads and poor infrastructure was harming the whole agri sector and now the government had decided to take initiative to give attention towards this neglected sector. The Provincial Minister said that 30 to 40 per cent agriculture produce goes waste only due to non-availability of post harvest techniques.

The Minister urged the LCCI members to come forward and join hands with PAMCO so that the demand-oriented crops could be produced to avail the opportunities in the global market. He said that the basic aim of setting up of PAMCO is not to do business but to facilitate the private sector in general and the growers of this country in particular.

Speaking on the occasion, the LCCI President said that marketing has become the most critical activity in today's business. It may not be that difficult to produce a commodity but it is more difficult to market it to the advantage of the producer. Experience has shown that the present system of marketing agricultural produce is designed to benefit the traders engaged in the marketing of agricultural produce rather than their producers. The existing system does not ensure adequate returns to the producers of the agricultural commodities.

Mian Shafqat Ali said that while the advanced countries are giving subsidy to their farmers on the production and export of agricultural commodities, the input cost of Pakistani farmers has increased manifold due to increase in the prices of inputs such as labor, electricity, diesel, agricultural machinery and equipment. Farmers in Indian Punjab are being given free electricity; cheap fertilizers and agriculture machinery for agricultural purposes and it is necessary to provide concessions to the Pakistani farmers likewise in the procurement of these inputs.

He said that LDA, WASA and City District Government needed to upgrade their infrastructure and services in the existing vegetable and fruit markets to improve the working conditions. He also urged the Minister to help establish another fruit and vegetable market as per international standards and this may be done in consultation with the private sector.

LCCI Senior Vice President Abdul Basit said that the government should provide tax-free diesel and electricity without General Sales Tax (GST) to the farming community so that they could be able to compete in the global market. He also said that the government should allow one-dish at wedding ceremonies to strengthen poultry and related industry.

Vice President Aftab Ahmad Vohra invited the attention of the Minister towards the non-availability of cold storage facilities, saying that the PAMCO should establish storage facilities at airports, which is a dire need of the hour.

Earlier, while giving a comprehensive briefing to the participants, the Chief Executive Officer of the PAMCO Mansoor Arifeen said that PAMCo's objective is not only to provide investment opportunities in the Agribusiness but to make farm products competitive and to reduce post harvest losses.