LANDI KOTAL: The export of flour from Pakistan to Afghanistan was suspended temporarily on Tuesday after authorities in the neighbouring country increased custom duty on the commodity along with signing an agreement with India for import of wheat and flour.
Custom officials and clearing agents at Torkham border told Dawn that flour exporters and dealers in Peshawar stopped export of the commodity to Afghanistan as they were asked to deposit additional amount as custom duty by the Afghan authorities at Torkham border.
Flour dealers told Dawn that they also heard about an agreement between Afghanistan and India regarding import of Indian flour to the neighbouring country at subsidised rates. Afghanistan already had also signed an agreement with Tajikistan but Pakistani flour was accepted there, they added.
Authorities in neighbouring country increase customs duty
The dealers said that as many as 70 trucks loaded with flour would cross over to Afghanistan via Torkham border on daily basis. “The export of flour has for the time being come to a halt,” they said.
Customs officials at Torkham confirmed suspension of export of lour to Afghanistan but they were reluctant to share more details.
Meanwhile, local custom clearing agents and flour exporters held an emergency meeting at Torkham to review the situation and discuss ways how to cope with it.
The participants of the meeting expressed their deep concerns over the policy of Afghan government to increase the custom duty. They decided to raise the issue with authorities concerned both in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The flour dealers said that the suspension of export could cause them financial losses to the tune of millions of rupees.
Sources said that export of different commodities from Pakistan to Afghanistan was affected owing to sudden increase in custom duty by Afghanistan in recent past but such policies were letter reversed on the complaints and protests of Pakistani exporters.
Sadiq Shah, a flour dealer, said that Pakistani flour had huge market in Afghanistan as it was considered best for bread baking in comparison to flour imported from Tajikistan which was mostly used in bakeries and confectionaries.
Mujeebur Rehman, a custom clearing agent, told Dawn that apart from suspension of flour, export of milk and cream to Afghanistan had also been reduced as Iranian milk and cream were flooding markets in the neighbouring country.
He said that although import of fresh fruits including grapes and melons from Afghanistan was recently started, yet the quantity of the fruits was much lesser as compared to that of the previous year.
Mr Rehman said that only 40 to 45 trucks loaded with fresh fruits were coming to Pakistan on daily basis in comparison to near 150 loaded vehicles in a day during the previous year.
He said that import of soapstone and coal from Afghanistan had also declined considerably owing to border restrictions imposed by Pakistan government since June 1.
However, Mr Rehman said that other items including construction materials and edibles except flour were being exported to Afghanistan in huge quantity.