Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Food exports: Pakistan plans to take a slice of $16b Russian market

Pakistan sees a lucrative opportunity in the $16-billion Russian food import market and is planning to grab a bigger slice of it after Moscow imposed a ban on imports of agriculture products from the European Union.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Wednesday urged the government agencies concerned to come up with a plan at the earliest to capitalise on the opportunity, as Pakistan followed an “open foreign policy” and was keen to become an important partner of Russia.
He asked the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of National Food Security and Research and Trade Development Authority to prepare a plan for export of agricultural products to Russia in a bid to enhance overall export volume and reduce the current account deficit, according to a handout issued by the Ministry of Finance.
Trade ties between Pakistan and Russia have been unenthusiastic for years or even decades because of Islamabad’s tilt towards Washington and a trade dispute with the Russian government.
Dar pressed prospective exporters to cash in on the situation after the Russian government slapped restrictions on agricultural imports from European countries.
The national food security secretary and commerce secretary briefed Dar on the ways and means that could help boost agricultural trade with Russia and said they had already initiated measures to identify export destinations in Russia for Pakistani food products.
The government is keen to export sugar and wheat to Russia.
The finance minister pointed out that Russia had been importing food items worth $35 billion from around the world, particularly European countries, and the curbs on imports were creating a space of $16 billion. This should be captured and “certainly we would like to have a share in this available market”, he remarked.
“Pakistan has a sturdy agricultural sector which contributes 21% to gross domestic product. We can provide incentives to help the sector prosper if we find new export destinations for our products.”
He directed the ministries of commerce and national food security to coordinate and prepare a comprehensive plan identifying the exportable food products, keeping in view whether surplus quantities and requisite quarantine arrangements were available.
Dar was of the view that quality standards should be considered in advance to ensure the success of the export plan. He, however, cautioned that increase in exports should not come at the cost of domestic consumers.
The food secretary gave assurances that the export plan would take care of this factor.
He also cited a detailed programme for growth in agriculture with a view to enhancing agriculture exports as a surge in shipments would encourage investment in the sector.
Dar asked the ministries concerned to prepare for the World Food Exhibition 2015 in Moscow and also arrange single-country exhibitions to attract foreign exporters.
The commerce secretary at this juncture told the minister that the commerce ministry was organising seminars in Lahore to highlight the export opportunities to prospective businessmen and traders.
Published in The Express Tribune

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