Fearing further influx of Iranian goods through illegal trade links, Pakistan is going to adopt strict Non Tariff Barriers (NTBs) to discourage illegal and undocumented imports. Taking notice of the huge imports of apple from Iran and subsequent strong reservations of growers mainly of Balochistan, Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) has proposed a numbers of measures/NTBs to the Ministry of Commerce to control the unchecked imports and smuggling of fresh apples from Iran.
Earlier, Balochistan Zamindar Action Committee (BZAC) had also shown strong reservation over the unchecked imports/smuggling from Iran. In a letter, No TDAP-AFD/Director/2013, sent to MoC on January 22, 2013, the authority keeping in view that province of Balochistan has bumper crop of fresh apple and other fruits, has proposed followings measures to protect the domestic market:
i) NTBs may be adopted to discourage the illegal, undocumented and poor quality imports. These should used in an effective way to put limitation on imports. ii) Sanitary and Phytosanitary standards are to be applied to check the quality of imports. According to SPS, a country can impose conditions if the imported commodity is not up to sanitary and phytosanitary standards “The imports of apple from Iran are not fulfilling these standards. There is danger of pest attack on the local apple produce which not only discourage the consumers’ demand at local but also at international level. BZAC has reasonable apprehensions and required actions needed to be taken over the issue.
iii) Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) may be consulted to be proactive for specifying its quality standards and discourage the damaging imports.
iv) Health standards can also be imposed to reduce the imports of apple from Iran, proving that the imported fruit are injurious to health.
v) There is also a danger of dumping of the imported apple from Iran. In this regard ‘antidumping measures’ may also be adopted to stop the low cost imported commodity.
vi) Pakistan National Accreditation Council may also issue necessary certification and accreditation for the purpose of specifying conditions in the matter concerned.
Through the letter, TDAP has further proposed that the following wording should be added in Sr.No 5 of Appendix-B of the Import Policy Order-2009; “and subject to production of aflatoxins report issued by the competent authorities of the country of origin, confirming that the consignment is free from any pests/diseases and is fit for human consumption.” This will not only ensure that the product is fit for consumption but also result in stoppage of third country fruit import including from Iran as without the certification of origin no consignment would be released through customs.
TDAP has also written the same letter to Director General Plant protection Department Ministry of National Food, Security and Research to make necessary arrangement for the implementation of the import conditions entertaining the apprehension of BZAC and local producers of apple by strict vigilance and compliance of phytosanitary conditions in letter and sprit.
However, despite the documentation and claims of the concerned authorities the import/smuggling of apple continues from Iran. According to sources, a vessel carrying 175 metric tons (15400 boxes) of Iranian fresh apple has been cleared by customs on February 4, 2013. Talking to Business Recorder, Rana Akhlaq, Director General Plant Protection Department, said that on the directive of MoC, the department had already imposed ban on imports of apple from Iran since January 4. However, only a vessel which was stopped at the port for four days was later allowed to enter the country on the directive of MoC.
It is, however, interesting that a firm was allowed to release imported fresh fruit at Karachi port event after the ban imposed at least 30 days ago. According to sources, though the Iranian border is almost closed for Pakistani fruits like Kinnow under existing over 80 percent import duty and other trade barriers, over 28080 metric tones apple have been imported into Pakistan from Iran badly affecting the local market.
Pakistan produces average 600,000 metric tones of apples per annum where the share of Balochistan is about 60 percent and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 25 percent of the total produce. The remaining 15 percent is being produced in Punjab and Sindh. Because of its attractive income, apple plantation was taken up by the growers in Swat, Dir, Mansehra, Parachinar, Chitral, Hunza, Skardu North and South Waziristan Agencies.
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