WHO'S SMUGGLING OUR FOOD?

ATIF HASSAN
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Aug 6 - 12, 20
12

Smuggling severely harms the economy of a country in multidimensional ways. It undermines the local industry, discourages legal imports and reduces the volume of revenues collected from duties and levies by the state. Unfortunately a parallel underground economy has taken roots in Pakistan . A major proportion of the revenue to be collected by the Government is being lost, over and above the adverse impact that the smuggled items cause to our industry. Obviously this cannot be done without connivance of the corrupt officials including those in the law enforcement agencies and everyone is aware of it but no action is being taken.

Smuggling of wheat to other countries is another main reason of food shortage in our country. As the harvest season nears its completion, the scourge of wheat smuggling into Afghanistan has reared its ugly head through the mutual connivance of the middleman and unscrupulous officials. The middlemen are picking up the crop from the farmers at a price far below the official support price and then smuggle it across the border at a higher price. It is a vicious circle that is not just snatching the bread out of the farmers' mouth, but sharing serious repercussions for the country's food security. The rise in the beef and mutton prices in the local market of Pakistan has forced the Ministry of Finance to look into the matter of livestock smuggling to neighboring countries like Iran and Afghanistan . One of the major issue which has contributed to this dilemma is the illegal export of livestock, hence it was decided in the National Price Monitoring Committee that the Ministry of Food Security would work alongside Federal Board of Revenue and the Interior Ministry for exploration of solutions to curb the illegal export of livestock.

However, the issue of smuggling livestock isn't a new one, as it has been pushing an upward pressure on the prices of beef and mutton since last year, but the export license issue hasn't been resolved yet. Due to this inefficiency of the concerned departments, thousands of live animals are being smuggled from Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Iran and Afghanistan .

According to the sources, it was discussed in the meeting that large quantity of sugar is being smuggled to Afghanistan and India , as commodity prices are low in Pakistan against these two countries. Price of sugar in Pakistan is around Rs 70 to Rs 75 per kilogram, while in Afghanistan it surged to Rs 130 per kilogram and in India commodity is available at Rs 100 per kilogram.

Sugar Advisory Board has decided that Utility Stores Corporation (USC) would continue to sell sugar at Rs 45 per kilogram at its outlets. Board asked the provincial governments to make ensure that there is no hoarding and they must root out this hoarding menace from the country.

The provincial governments ensure that all the sugar mills in their respective provinces must maintain 15 to 20 percent stocks of their production to meet emergency requirements, board decided.

Smuggling of livestock to Iran and Afghanistan is a serious concern and wanted that Ministry of Food Security in consultation with the Federal Board of Revenue and the Interior Ministry suggest measures to control the illegal export of livestock. Beside customs, it is also the responsibility of the Frontier Constabulary and other law enforcement agencies to check illegal export of livestock. Recently, Ministry of National Food Security and Research has approved quota for quarter-wise distribution of exportable animals to different countries particularly Iran and Afghanistan . Ministry of National Food Security and Research has approved the quarter-wise quota for export of animals during the calendar year 2012. Customs officials would allow export of animals as per admissible quota to Iran and Afghanistan . The quota has been fixed to ensure that smuggling of animals should not take place and only a specific quantity should be exported from customs stations near border areas.

Children smuggles flour between two of the most dangerous countries in the world, Afghanistan and Pakistan . Due to the skyrocketing price, Pakistan is now short of flour. Therefore, the smuggling of flour is illegal. Due to domestic upheavals, some Pakistan children are forced to smuggle food and other forbidden things along the border area. They do not only need to pay attention to the beats from police when they are found, but also have to be aware of the possible terrorist attacks around them. Even though, they still need to work. A charity organization assumes that about 300 kids go back and forth in the border. Kids often need to lift the cargos over their head while those adults who have wheelbarrows can collect metal chips, oil tanks and other cargos. Many adults track across the border but some businessmen still need children because they are only allowed to cross the border by the police. The kids earn 20 cents per time they cross the border, sometimes even less. UNICEF helps to set up a charity organization in local regions but members in the organization know that then cannot ask all kids to stop working and go back to school. Some kids live in caves with their family, every cent they earn is important to their family. Charity organizations provide loans without interests to those families on the condition that the parents send their children back to school. The organization said that more than 300 kids are now back to school but it is not an easy task. The organization and its members asked the journalists not to publish their name because they are afraid of the death threat from local Taliban, who blames the organization against the Islamic law.

The Government must immediately launch a crackdown on the illegal smuggling trade and arrest those involved in this shameful act. The government must adopt a farmer friendly policy that they can get maximum profit from food crops especially wheat.

By adopting the honest and effective measures we can not only reduce food shortage but can also gain self-sufficiency in food items. Pakistan is an agricultural country, and few targeted measures can solve our problems.