Thursday, 8 January 2015

Government urged to cancel notification issued in March 2012

Several organisations representing the agricultural community of the country have urged the government of Pakistan to cancel the notification issued in March 2012, allowing import of 137 items free of duties from India to Pakistan, which according to them resulted in import of vegetables and other agricultural commodities worth Rs 25 billion during 2013-14.

"Indian growers are already producing agricultural commodities under heavy subsidy of Rs 100 billion per annum and their duty-free import was breaking the backbone of Pakistani farmers who are bearing the brunt of heavy input cost. This duty free import of vegetables and other agricultural commodities had destroyed the 70 per cent of tunnel farming only in Punjab," they claimed.

Kisan Board Pakistan (KBP) Senior Vice President Sarfraz Ahmad Khan, Basmati Growers Association (BGA) Chairman Chaudhry Hamid Malhi, Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI) Chief Khalid Mehmood Khokhar, Farmers Associates Pakistan (FAP) Directors Abbad ur Rehman and Zafar Iqbal Khokhar, Punjab Water Council (PWC) founding convener Farooq Bajwa, Sindh Taas Water Council Salman Khan and Aiwan-e-Zaraat Vice President Chaudhry Abdullh addressed the press conference here on Wednesday.

These growers' leaders said, "it is condemnable that Pakistan is importing thousands of tons of duty free vegetables from India on daily basis despite its aggression on our geographical boundaries." They said their assembly was to draw the attention of the government and the masses towards destruction being caused by that duty-free import via Wagha on Pakistan's agricultural sector.

They said that issue of declaring India as a Most Favoured Nation (MFN) got delayed in year 2012 but later Ministry of Trade issued a notification in March 2012 allowing 137 items duty-free from India including about 40 agricultural items.

They said "India on one hand is gifting Pakistan dead bodies of our innocent citizen courtesy cross border firing but we are importing duty-free items strengthening Indian economy and depriving our farmers from due compensation of their hard labour."

Growers' leaders also alleged that Indian vegetables were being imported without any laboratory tests and if those were poisoned and virus-infected then would cause a threat to health of Pakistani people.

They said India was also extending a huge subsidy of Rs 100 billion to its growers while Pakistani growers were facing expensive inputs and General Sales Tax (GST) of 17 percent. They claimed that 454,465 tons of vegetables and other agricultural commodities were imported from India during the year 2013-14.

Punjab Water Council (PWC) representative Farooq Bajwa also drew attention of the government towards import of palm oil which according to him not fit for human consumption and it was also causing heavy loss to cotton growers as cotton-seed oil was being mixed in imported palm oil to bring down its temperature. He claimed that it was causing Rs 100 billion loss per annum to Pakistani growers. He said growers also suffered a collective loss of Rs 300 billion this year because of flood damages to rice and cotton fields.

All the organisations demanded the government to immediately cancel the March 2012 notification or impose taxes and duties on agricultural commodities being imported in Pakistan. They also said that GST on Pakistani agricultural inputs should be withdrawn as it would ensure provision of cheaper agricultural commodities to the consumers on lower rates.

They warned that if these demands were not met then they would stage a joint demonstration on February 6, to press the government.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2015

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